Uptown Theatre

1430 Washington Avenue,
Racine, WI 53403

Unfavorite 6 people favorited this theater

Additional Info

Architects: Wade B. Denham

Styles: Gothic Revival

Previous Names: Majestic Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Uptown Theatre

Opened as the Majestic Theatre on May 2, 1928 with William Boyd in “Dress Parade”. The theatre was later renamed the Uptown Theatre. The building, which currently stands vacant in a deteriorated state, was listed to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Contributed by Ross Melnick, Sean Doerr, CharlesVanBibber

Recent comments (view all 53 comments)

trailer63 on September 6, 2010 at 10:20 am

I used to live in Racine – for most of my life, in fact. I worked at the Avenue Frame Shop for a short time. The checkout counter where I worked, and incidentally, started the contents of the wastebasket on fire, was the old ticket booth. Back then, I was more selfish than I am today, and so, though I noted the unusual checkout counter, I didn’t care to investigate further the unique history of the building.

About twenty years later, I went into the Majestic to pick over the treasures at the junk store then inhabiting the building. The ticket booth was gone; the quaint, historical ambience permeating the Avenue Frame Shop when I worked there had since been bludgeoned by weak lighting, neglect, and mountains of black garbage bags bulging with moldy, cast-off crap.

I tried to ignore the blight as I puttered down the theatre promenade toward its lobby, in search of the rare find. But something about the promenade refused to be ignored. The plastered walls, the architectural details, even the floor itself, tugged at the hand of my inner being like an insistent child eager to deliver an important message.

I confess I felt a quickening in my spirit. I was compelled to pass through the darkness of the ancient promenade and into the lobby itself, no longer in search of a piece of 1960s flower-power memorabilia, but in search of something else, something I couldn’t quite touch…or, possibly, hear.

In the lobby, I was astounded by the presence of plaster cherub faces. Why had I not seen these twenty years ago? I stared at one neglected face then another and another, unwilling to look away and, thereby, break the spell cast by their historical relevance.

It was there, standing in the lobby as the object of the sad cherub gazes, I heard the deep call of the Majestic. I immediately answered, and all of that aged elegance and potential for rebirth swirled through my inner being like a wild-hair dream that was meant to come true.

Later, I told my sister I had heard the theatre call to me. Did she laugh? Perhaps.

The pictures posted on Flickr by unfogged eyes opens the floodgate of memory. In my mind’s eye, I am in the lobby once again, listening to the voice of the Majestic, and now contemplating the unfolding of God’s providence.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on October 4, 2012 at 6:44 am

I recently photographed the Uptown Theatre check out the post at After the Final Curtain

BobbyS on August 8, 2014 at 10:06 pm

I went to Fred Herme’s basement theater today and they talked about the Uptown theater still standing. We went looking for it. Not only did we find it, we went right in. Stage door wide open. Some work was done like a new circuit breaker and some wiring and new cement stairs in the rear. Amazing a work light was lit on the main floor and sunlight streaming through cracks where one could see the entire auditorium. A Beauty. Orginal drapes hang above the stage. Plenty of plaster on the floor. As we were leaving I noticed a calendar on the stage back wall. It was marked March, 1994. What year did the people that were trying to restore this theater just walk away and not even lock the door? Some of the tools were left behind.

LouRugani on October 8, 2017 at 9:18 am

(Racine Journal Times, October 8, 2017) – The Uptown Racine neighborhood has struggled to maintain business, but a new proposal in the 2018 capital improvement plan might breathe some life into the neighborhood. The proposal is looking to turn the old Uptown theater into a performing arts center and it asks for $75,000 to perform a feasibility study and $50,000 to perform market analysis in 2019. That money would get taken out of the intergovernmental revenue sharing fund. The proposal also included $10 million to be used in 2021 for property purchase and construction. The city would use $5 million of the TID bond and $5 million from private development to fund the project.

Racine City Administrator Jim Palenick said it could make a huge difference in the area if the theater on the 1400 block of Washington Avenue was revitalized. “If the city can come forward with a very strong start to this project, can the private sector make this happen,” adding the city has had discussions with people in Uptown and thinks that this project can “create some vision and get something done on a pretty solid plan that’s been out there for a while.”

Sandy Weidner, mayoral candidate, said the plan “doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me at all, but I’d like to know more about it. I do think it would be a good thing, but I would need to hear more from the director of city development on what the expectation is from the feasibility study and market analysis. I’d also like to know if we’d done one in the past.” Weidner said on taking the money out of the intergovernmental revenue sharing fund: “that’s going to depend on the health of that particular fund to know if we could take $125,000 out of there. There’s a lot of other commitments being proposed to come out of the intergovernmental fund.”

State Rep. Cory Mason, mayoral candidate, also echoed the same sentiments about wanting to know more about the project. “I think Uptown needs something transformative to help bring it back … revitalizing Uptown has been a priority for the city and should be a priority for the next mayor,” Mason said. “Whether or not this project is the best way to revitalize Uptown is still unclear to me… I’d like to hear what the community has to say about it.”

Mason said it’s very early in the process for this project and would like to have more input from different members of the community. “I think a mistake that was made with the arena was there wasn’t enough done to gauge community support for the project,” Mason said. “For me the first thing I want to do is gauge not just the feasibility of a project like that, but also the community support for it.”

Yesenia Alashi, manager at Furniture Warehouse, 1510 Washington Ave., said anything new to the area would be an improvement. “This area is pretty dead now … a lot of stores have closed down or they don’t have a lot going on in this uptown area. It would be nice to get something newer something fresh in this area. It might boost this area a little bit more, especially a theater.”

rivest266 on November 14, 2017 at 3:50 pm

There was quite a big building boom from April 7th-May 4th, 1928. Allen and Granada on April 7th, Venetian on April 12th and the Uptown on May 2nd, 1928. That makes 4 theatres in less than a month.

rivest266 on November 14, 2017 at 3:56 pm

Full page ad in the photo section and below

Found on Newspapers.com

LouRugani on April 10, 2018 at 12:08 am

(May 1, 1928) – ART WORK – The three mural windows at the head of the grand stairs in the new Majestic, which depict comedy, tragedy and music, were furnished by the Industrial Art Service. The 150 tons of cast stone used in the exterior construction of the Majestic, aa well as in the finish of the lobby are of what is known as “Granitex" trim. This product was supplied by the Chrlstoffel Art Stone company of Milwaukee. The texture used is white with black. It is composed of white medusa cement with pulverized marble granite aggregate which gives it life and strength. A weather proofing of about two per cent is also used to prevent water absorption. The material is used for all exterior work. Including entrances window and door sills, coping; the roof, general ornamental trim, brackets, urns and lamps. The firm operates one of the largest stone factories in the state and is in a position to give service because of the fact that it has all moulds on hand thereby saving time ordinarily consumed in making.

The Majestic theater, the one which did service for many years at “Uptown—the Heart of Racine,” led the way for the new playhouse which now adorns the same site. It grew into popularity with the years, surrounded by the most prosperous business institutions of which Racine can boast. The new Majestic, its successor, starts out under far more encouraging conditions than did its predecessor, however. This wonderful theater will follow the policy laid down by Manager Frank Walcott when he took charge of the old playhouse. The same type of entertainment which made the old house popular will not be discarded but adhere to it even more closely.

LARGE ORGAN BIG FEATURE – Expert Voicers Produced Instrument Heard in Majestic – Of the equipment provided in the new Majestic for the entertainment of the theater going public, the Marr and Colton organ is an outstanding feature. It is a 10-stop, three-manual organ and possesses all of the equipment necessary for theatrical musical reproduction. Its installation was personally supervised by Mr. Colton, a member of the firm who was greatly interested in the opportunity given his firm by the theater management to demonstrate its organ whenever it wished to do so. The Marr and Colton organ is built at Wausau, and is the product of a company organized by two expert organ voicers who were dissatisfied with the restrictions placed upon them by the company for which they formerly employed their skill. In order to voice an organ as they wished to, they founded the firm which bears their names and when they launched their first product, have become rationally known. Their organs ore among the finest manufactured in America and have special tonal qualities peculiar to the artists who conceived and built them. Matching in with the general scheme of things in the new Majestic theater is the comfortable and conveniently arranged furniture which is to be found in the foyers, lobby men’s smoker and women’s rest room. All of this, together with that in the theater offices was furnished by the Junction Furniture company. Mr. Wolcott, the manager of the playhouse, relied very much upon the judgment of the company’s personnel in making selections for the furnishing of the theater. The furniture is all in good taste and adds muoh to the comforts provided for the patrons.

TICKET BOOTH – An exquisite bit of craftsmanship is portrayed by the mahogany and marble ticket booth which commands the entrance to the Majestic, a gem of creative workmanship. possessing a quiet elegance. (Racine Journal)

LouRugani on April 10, 2018 at 12:26 am

(Racine Journal News, May 1, 1928) Majestic Theater Opens at 2:00 P. M. Tomorrow – J Ernst Klinkert, Owner, Praised for Supplying Needed Playhouse. Frank E. Wolcott, Lessee, is Managing Director, and B. Wade Denham the Building Engineer success much as he did the old the- views of the interior, the artist de ater which filled, for many years, picting truthfully the grandeur of the amusement need for that thriving section of the city.

When the doors of the new Majestic in “Uptown—the Heart of Racine” swing open tomorrow afternoon there will he revealed one of the most beautiful of sights. Artists and artisans have for weeks worked on this most gorgeous place of amusement, bruin ideas and effects which were woven into t: Most complete will be the realization of Ernst Klinkert, owner, a man to elevate the tone of moving pictures in ti us has invested a large amount of rn *nev ii v project, one which will stand as a memorial to his spiriting enterprise, but he can sit back and view with just pride his most worthy accomplishment.

Active in the life of “Uptown—the Heart of Racine,” and directly connected with the history of the old Majestic theater, is Frank K. Wolcott, veteran amusement house man of this city and section of the state. No man is better fitted to continue in the conduct of “Uptown’s” theater than is Mr. Wolcott. For many years he has had his finger on the public’s requisite for a theater. They endeavor to show their appreciation tomorrow by attending the opening performance and in various other ways as shown in this special edition. As as the tenths and years pass in procession they will continue in that role and consider the interest of builder and lessee of the new theater as their personal interest, ever ready to do their share in the still greater development of “Uptown-the Heart of Racine".

Unqualified charm of design embellished by exquisite decorative treatment which accentuates its architectural features, elevates the new Majestic from the ordinary theaters. Done in pure Gothic style with daring employment of detail, the creation might well be epitomized in the words of William Jenning Bryan when he characterized a “frozen music the beauties encountered on a tour of the fine old European examples of this enchanting type of construction.“ The treatment of the entrance is unusually fine. Three columns carrying Gothic arches give access to the permanent open vestibule. There is a deep ceiling in gold and bronze, curved down in an interesting way to rest upon a beading of grotesque Gothic heads. The 82 foot long lobby is in English Gothic overspread with a delicately hued blue ceiling into which a series of arches have been groined.

Willburg145 on April 22, 2018 at 12:30 am

The current owner are putting it up for auction.


LouRugani on April 18, 2019 at 4:10 pm

Over the decades, different groups have unsuccessfully sought to secure funding to revitalize the UPTOWN theater since it closed in 1959. Most recently, in 2017, the city Development Department proposed a $5 million earmark for a redevelopment of the theater in the city’s 10-year capital improvement plan, but city aldermen shot it down. At that time, Connolly said, the Uptown was salvageable. But that does not seem to be the case any longer. “In that year time, between when we went through it the first time and when we went through it the second time, there were so many more holes in the roof — there was so much more damage — that it was obvious that that year had really taken a toll and that there would just be no path forward,” Connolly said. While tearing down the Uptown Theater is possible, it could need to go through a lengthier process with the Wisconsin Historical Society and city Landmarks Preservation Commission due to its historic designation. The commission has authority to review demolition permits. The Park Theatre’s looming demolition is just a larger symptom of an unfortunate pattern of Racine’s historic buildings being taken advantage of, Mason said. “They don’t preserve themselves magically,” Mason said. “It requires investment, commitment, enforcement and stewardship by the property owners to do that.”

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater.