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 grant application enabled a new roof to be installed.

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

The lobby though, 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. 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!

  5. 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!

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