The Lost Auditorium

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.

The lobby, thanks to the efforts of engineer Mike Schmidt, was saved and it is possible to restore it.

But the auditorium is gone. The balcony is gone. Even the auditorium floor is gone. The interior of the stone structure is, today, largely an empty shell.


Standing in the lobby, one today can look into the huge shell of the theater building. The stage was atop the ruined structure in the background. As part of the plans to restore the 1900 theater, efforts are underway to find an answer to THE big question? What did the lost auditorium look like?


The lost proscenium arch, wonderfully ringed by light bulbs!


To each side of the proscenium arch were these lost Art Deco ladies! These were, presumably, created when the building was converted into the Uptown Theater in 1931.


The lost ceiling was flat and covered in stamped tin! In the center was an elaborate medallion and some sort of flourish in the very center.


Luckily, W. F. Norman in Missouri, has a very similar medallion available!


Portions of the ceiling and stamped tin cornice remain. WF Norman can also supply close facsimiles to this.


The lost balcony. And the lost ceiling.


Under the balcony. This image was taken in 2000 after the partial collapse.


These images proved surprising.

For, the lost auditorium was a lot simpler than imagined. This is good actually because simple is much more cost effective to recreate than elaborate!

Speaking for myself, I would love to see an accurate recreation of the lost auditorium, including resurrecting the two Art Deco ladies! There would be modern stage lighting of course, an incredible sound system, and comfortable seats.

Under the auditorium is a whole other level, the former ballroom. I can see this being sleekly modern! This is where the bathrooms would be, and a catering kitchen. The current plans are to have the ballroom available as an events space, with access to a south garden, and to a “secret garden” to the north. Parking will be to the west.

A project like this will be many many years in the making. But when I moved to Kansas in 1996 the Granada Theater in Emporia was closed and with a roof pouring water into the ruined building. The city wanted the structure demolished.

And today?


Dreams can come true.


And when I moved to Kansas the old train depot in Strong City was boarded up and falling into a ruin. And today?


Dreams can come true.




  1. Barb Sanford on October 18, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    A lot of people came together to bring back the Granada. I’m grateful to them for their efforts, because I can’t imagine Emporia without it. I only wish we’d been able to save Emporia’s train station too. I’m grateful that folks are coming together to save Kansas history.

    • Ross on October 21, 2017 at 7:36 pm

      Thanks, Barb!

      I have talked with a lot of people who regret not saving Emporia’s train depot.

      “We didn’t we save it?”

  2. Dodi on October 18, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    Ross, I know that this is so very important to the town and to you. Sooo, here’s a present from the Deep South to you.

    What might be of interest is the detail drawings, although the pictures are really cool too. You get to drool over the extravagant lounges and stuff. Enjoy! (And maybe get some inspiration?)

    Speaking of, are we absolutely sure that architect Charles Squires wasn’t involved in this structure? That center ceiling medallion looks oddly similiar to blueprint 13 of the Cross House.

    • Sandra Lee on November 12, 2017 at 9:32 pm

      What a keen eye Dodi! BTW the Alabama Theatre in Birmingham reminded me so much of the old Paramount Theatre in downtown Toledo Ohio. Saw GWTW there in the early 60’s.

  3. Derek Walvoord on October 19, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Lots of work, but it will be a cool project!

  4. Dave on October 20, 2017 at 3:01 am

    Wow! Nice find on those old pictures. I have a lot of great memories as a kid going to see movies there.
    I keep forgetting, you never saw the movie theatre when it was in business, huh Ross?
    Yeah, it was cool. I’m super stoked that you guys have a plan to restore it to it’s original style.

    Yes, it was a pretty simple theatre and not too elaborate.
    That’s not to say that some more elaborate details and minor upgrades can’t be added.
    Some upgraded, but period correct 1930’s finishes and antique hardware could always be added.

    I’m just glad that someone is restoring it, who appreciates the importance of using the original types of materials.
    When Saint Anthony’s church was renovated a decade or so 2 ago, they put up modern looking drywall and finishes and took all of the character out of the interior of the church. I’m glad that you’re trying to recreate everything, all the way to identical ceiling tiles. Nice work guys!

  5. Rachel Creager Ireland on October 21, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Here’s a post on my blog about the work we did today.

    • Ross on October 21, 2017 at 7:29 pm

      Cool! Thanks, Rachel!

  6. Sandra Lee on October 29, 2017 at 11:18 pm

    What a fun post— just dreams can come true & especially those wit vision!!

    • Sandra Lee on October 29, 2017 at 11:20 pm

      Yes— dreams will come to those with vision & those with patience & great patience to wait for the dreams to come to fruition!

  7. Dave on November 3, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    I know this is a LONG way off, but I asked someone that I know who works in the movie theatre installation field what he’d recommend for AV equipment, projector, speakers, etc and what the total cost to put in a modern system would be.
    He said you could put in EVERYTHING, including modern digital projector, receiver, speakers, racks, etc for around $55,000. Installed it would run less than $75,000 total, with labor, wiring and everything. He said most theatres that show modern digital new releases don’t use 4k video systems. Most of them are around 1080p resolution with 7.1 surround sound systems.
    They are similar specs as you’d need to play Blu-ray movies, but the bit rate is much higher quality than Blu-ray. He emailed me a couple systems with detailed prices for a couple options. I figured it would be $200,000 or more for a modern AV system.
    Just some info, FYI, for discussion. Like I said, this is years away probably and one of the last things that would be done with the theatre after it’s all rebuilt. Just interesting to me. When you get closer to being finished, I kept his equipment recommendations and prices for installation.

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