In 1900, construction began on a large stone building in Strong City, Kansas. Carved into stone above the main entrance: 1900 Auditorium. The building was used initially as an opera house, and in the 1920s it was converted to show new-fangled moving pictures. Yes, actual moving pictures! Imagine!
In 1931, the theater was re-named The Uptown, and this is how it became known to generations of moviegoers in the small town of Strong City.
As with all small-town theaters, the business struggled and later closed. In the fall of 2000 the entire roof suddenly and without warning collapsed, crushing and destroying almost the entire interior.
This should have signaled the end of the historic structure.
But…but…the small town (population: around 500) rallied around the devastated structure. The city purchased the building from its private owner, and an application was made to the Heritage Trust Fund of Kansas to put on a new roof! The application was approved! And the new roof guaranteed that the stone structure would survive!
The building in the summer of 2017.
It seems that in the 1940s the main entrance was renovated. A large arched window was covered over. The original doors were replaced. Glass block sidelights were installed. And this is how things remained until the theater was closed and the doors covered with plywood.
After being dormant for decades, the theater inhaled a new breath this past Saturday. In the early morning hours, with great heat and in full sun, three volunteers began CPR…
…by removing the ancient plywood covering the huge arched window above the main entrance. The window has been covered since, it seems, the 1940s. Nobody knew it was there.
And what a glory the ached window is! Zounds! The window certainly dates from the 1900 build date, and retains, amazingly, almost all its original glass, including stunning amethyst and turquoise panels! Who knew!
The main doors are, again, assumed from the 1940s. These proved, sadly, in poor condition and cannot likely be saved. At my instruction, Scott Wilste is shown here, smashing a glass pane so we could reach in to open the long-sealed doors.
ZOUNDS! The doors are open for the first time in decades! Inside? The ruined lobby survived, barely, the devastation of the collapsed roof.
Here, Justin Garr is trying to removed the arched window so it can be restored. Scott is climbing the steps.
The window would not come out, but will with a cordless sawzall (which we did not have on Saturday). So we left things as they were, after replacing the sign across the 1940s doors. And so it begins…
Post by Ross, blogmaster.