STRONG CITY, KANSAS

Exploring the Ruins

In 2000, the roof of the 1900 theater suffered a partial collapse, then total collapse.

Almost the entire interior was destroyed by this catastrophe.

A successful application to the Kansas Heritage Trust Fund enabled a new roof to be installed.

Then, the destroyed interior, which had been rained on for years, was scooped out.

But one portion remained.

Through the efforts of engineer Mike Schmidt, the lobby portion of the building was left intact, although it was in poor condition.

 

With the front door to the lobby boarded over, how to access it? Justin Garr brought over a SCARY tall ladder, and he and I climbed up. And up. And up to the lobby.

 

Standing in the lobby, one today can look into the huge empty shell of the theater building. The stage was atop the ruined structure in the background.

 

Standing in the lobby…we we shocked. It appeared a total ruin.

 

We were overwhelmed. But…but…the more we looked around the more hopeful we became. The entire lobby is composed of beadboard walls and a beadboard ceiling. Most of this is restorable.

 

We then found an intact drinking fountain! It would be great if this could be restored!

 

There are two matching staircases which led to the lost balcony.

 

To our surprise, we found them to be largely intact. You can see here the charming headboard walls. This is the south stair.

 

The stairs are U-shaped. At their landing is a primitive but delightful newel!

 

We also found a brass pendant fixture which originally held a glass shade. This was likely the sole lighting fixture for the small lobby. Then we starting finding fragments of a shattered glass shade. From these bits we can ascertain the style of the shade, and then, likely, find an exact match. So, one day the brass pendant could be reinstalled!

 

The overturned concession stand reveals two intact ticket rolls!

 

The lobby looks terrifying. It IS terrifying. But…but…it can be entirely restored. All the beadboard can be carefully removed, structural repairs made, and the beadboard re-installed. When this work is completed the lobby can look just as did in 1900.

 

We have been carefully picking up historic bits. To the left is a piece of the tin cornice for the auditorium. The small “window” to the right (under the south stair) appears to be a ticket window. There is a matching one on the north stair.

 

The lobby is quite small, only 7-feet at its narrow width. The main doors are center. You can see the double staircases. The dotted lines represent where, it seems, a portion of the original lobby wall was removed so a concession stand could be installed. The double doors to the far right and far left are exit doors for the auditorium. They are in good condition.

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Nathan Davis on October 18, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    How sad that the original auditorium and its remains were removed! Being a theater it was no doubt relatively opulent. Are there any plans to rebuild it?

    • Ross on October 18, 2017 at 8:06 pm

      Hi, Nathan!

      Please stand by for the next post!

  2. Dave on October 20, 2017 at 3:05 am

    Yes! That fountain must be saved!
    Cool find!

  3. Leta Solis DeMayo on October 20, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    What a GIANT LABOR OF LOVE this will be! It is in sad shape but how wonderful if it can be restored to its splendor. Are there enough funds to accomplish this or are there fundraisers in planning? I think a large community effort would be required to accomplish this momentous task. I remember going here growing up to see Elvis & James Bond movies. Great memories to be sure! Good luck to all in this effort & I for one would love to come see it’s completion.

  4. Jarrett L. on October 26, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    I would love to see a picture of whats left of that light fixture!

  5. Sandra Lee on November 12, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    I am absolutely gobsmacked how you all are able to take a desolate ruin & dig in to the absolute least denominator & come up with pieces of original beadboard, tin cornice fragments, stairs, ticket counters & long lost glass globes!!! Remarkable!!

Leave a Comment