Ritz Theater

1145 North Military Avenue,
Baxter Springs, KS 66713

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Ritz Theater

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The Ritz Theater dates back to at least 1926. The Ritz Theater was still open in 1950, but was already closed by 1956 when it was converted into a restaurant. Current function unknown.

Contributed by Lost Memory

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

MrDJDude
MrDJDude on September 17, 2009 at 6:17 pm

The address given here is incorrect. The actual address for the Ritz building is 1145 Military Avenue.

According to this article, the last use was as a florist’s shop. Looking at Google Maps, I believe it might have been one of the now-empty store fronts to the left of the appliance/furniture store.

MrDJDude
MrDJDude on September 17, 2009 at 9:43 pm

After doing some more exploring, I was off on the address myself. I still say it’s not 117 North Military. The only thing in that area in the Baxter Springs High School, and residential roads.

It is also not 1145, which was the flower shop at one point, and possilby the New Baxter as well as the original location of the Blue Castle Restaurant, as mentioned in the article I forgot to link .

THIS theater, the Ritz, appears to have been at 1190 Military Avenue. If you Google Map that, the building before you is the former Blue Castle Restaraunt, as confirmed by the pictures on this page (search for “Baxter” on the page"). This was the Ritz Theater, and the the Blue Castle Restaurant. It’s now boarded up and disused.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 18, 2009 at 6:56 am

There’s something extraordinarily weird about Baxter Springs. The numbers on North Military Avenue get larger as you go south, instead of smaller as you would expect. Then, after the 300 N. block, the street name suddenly becomes just Military Avenue, with no north or south. But the numbers keep getting larger as you go south. Perhaps the city fathers of Baxter Springs were a bit confused about the concept of direction?

I think Phantom Screen was right the first time about the location of the Ritz. It must have been in the building with the boarded up restaurant on the northwest corner of Military and 12th, but the address of that building is not 1190, despite what Google Maps says. If you look at the building directly across the Avenue from it, there’s an establishment called Hatbox Photography. Looking up Hatbox Photography on the Internet, I found its address to be 1144 S. Military Avenue. Thus, the building across the street must be 1145 Military Avenue, the former home of the Ritz Theatre.

The Ritz was opened in 1926. The April 10 issue of The Reel Journal reported that the building, owned by John I. Cooper, was under construction and would be completed about May 1. (I think the building looks a bit too old fashioned to have been newly built in 1926, and was probably a conversion from some other use, but perhaps Mr. Cooper just had a very old fashioned sense of style.) The theater was being outfitted by Yale Theatre Supply Company, and would have “…416 upholstered seats, according to J. H. Toler, of the Yale Company.” Other issues of the magazine indicate that the Ritz was originally operated under a lease by C.A. Rehm.

There were also theaters called the Elite and the Majestic in Baxter Springs at the time, mentioned in issues of The Reel Journal as far back as 1925. I haven’t found the Majestic mentioned after that, but the Elite was mentioned as late as 1929. It’s possible that one or the other of them became the New Baxter Theatre.

A report on a fire at the Ritz in the July 15, 1944, issue of Boxoffice referred to the theater as “…the Commonwealth second house in Baxter Springs….” Commonwealth also operated the New Baxter Theatre at the time.

The March 7, 1957, issue of Boxoffice has an item that says “The building of the Ritz Theatre at Baxter Springs, Kas., has been sold and will be remodeled for a restaurant operation. The purchase was made from the Cooper estate.” As the item specifies the building rather than the theater being sold, it sounds as though the Ritz might already have been closed for some time before the sale took place.

Baxter Springs gets a surprising number of mentions in the trade publications, and it would take quite a while to sort through the lot of them. This comment is stuff gleaned from a handful of them that looked most significant to me. Maybe I’ll have time to dig up more about the town’s theaters at some future date.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 24, 2009 at 7:52 am

There is no 1170 Military Avenue. The numbers don’t go that high in that block, and the next block is 1200. If 117 Military Avenue was a misprint (rather than just the wrong address altogether) it would have to be a different misprint.

I checked the photo of the Blue Castle in Phantom’s link and there’s no mistaking that it’s the building at 1145 Military Avenue. That row of windows above the sign is distinctive.

Here’s an informative 2007 article about a couple who were planning to open a gift shop, tea room, and banquet room called the Ritz in the building at 1145 Military. The reason for their choice of the name is that, when doing work for the renovation, they found the name “Ritz” spelled out in small tiles at the building entrance.

All the evidence points to the 1145 Military Avenue being the building that the Blue Castle moved into in 1957. The link I just posted gives some history of the building, and to me it looks conclusive that 1145 Military Avenue was the location of the Ritz, not the New Baxter.

One more bit of evidence is an item in Boxoffice of October 16, 1961: “Marion Nichols is reopening the New Baxter Theatre in Baxter Springs, Kas., on a weekend policy. Fred Harpist is doing the booking and buying for the house.” The New Baxter could not have reopened in a building then occupied by the Blue Castle restaurant.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 25, 2009 at 12:20 am

Google returns results from all the web sites out there, including those that haven’t been updated (yellowpages.com, kudzu.com, etc.) but Google Maps itself doesn’t have a “businesses at this address” link for the address, so their information is more up-to-date than the chaff from ordinary search results. Google doesn’t have any control over web sites operated by other companies, and doesn’t yet have a reliable and economical means of checking them all for accuracy and discarding any outdated results, so I give them a pass on that.

The inaccurate street numbering problem is usually the result of insufficient data. To fix it they’d have to gather and store the highest and lowest street numbers on every block everywhere, or gather and store GPS coordinates for every address everywhere, either of which would be another Herculean task. I expect they’ll get around to it eventually. In the meantime, I always heed the warning that pops up on every street view image “Address is approximate.”

As for FDY’s error, they must have relied on the operators of theaters to provide them with such information as addresses and seat counts. It might have been that some careless typist at Commonwealth got the names and addresses mixed up.

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