121-27 3rd Avenue SE,
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Built by A.H. Blank of Des Moines, this theater opened as the Capitol Theatre on September 1, 1928, with 1,945 seats. It featured vaudeville, movies, and a mighty Wurlitzer organ. The half-block long lobby includes a Hall of Mirrors, which leads to a grand staircase. The lobby was patterned after the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles in France. A year after opening, the theater was sold to Paramount Studios and renamed the Paramount Theatre.
Much later, a multi-decade restoration project was begun to save the theater. During this process, numerous improvements were made. 1,600 yards of carpet were duplicated and replaced. The chandeliers, made of Austrian cut glass, were restored. The huge downstairs lounge, complete with fireplace, was restored in the late-1970’s by the Junior League of Cedar Rapids.
Until 1973, the lobby and lounge were filled with oil paintings from Europe, gilt mirrors, chests with marble or bronze busts, statues on pedestals, tables, sofas upholstered in blue and green velvet, and gilded lamps. In the auditorium, most of the seats were re-upholstered with red velvet. The original draperies only needed cleaning. The ceiling did not need cleaning because of it’s unique air-intake system. The Pagoda-style box office was also restored.
The Wurlitzer pipe organ (original cost $28,000) was restored too and is presently maintained by the Cedar Rapids Area Theatre Organ Society. Cedar Rapids is one of only two other cities to have two working theater organs in their original installations. The other is the ‘Rhinestone Barton’ in the former Iowa Theatre.
The people of Cedar Rapids who took on this project believe in the concept of adaptive reuse, which is simply the process of remodeling older buildings for contemporary purposes. From the look of it, they’ve done a great job.
Unfortunately, the Paramount Theatre was closed dure to flooding in January 2008. After renovations, it was reopened on November 3, 2012.
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