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Paramount Theatre

Eighth St & Elm St
La Crosse KS

Demolished 1981
Record #21724  
 Opened: April 25, 1910
 Closed: Yes (date unknown)
 Demolished: 1981
Capacity: 400 seats
Architectural Style(s):
National Register:
Current Organ: none
 Also Known As: Opera House, La Crosse Theatre

Information for this tour was contributed by Brad Penka.

In the spring of 1910, a new facility was completed which replaced the burned-down Andrews Opera House. It was located on the northeast corner of Eighth and Elm Streets, one block west of the Main Street business district. The building was a two-level brick structure fifty feet in width and seventy-five feet in length. It featured an auditorium with a proscenium stage, ground and upper-level seating, dressing rooms, storage areas and a lobby. A loft above the stage provided ample clearance for large props and backdrops. The opera house was lighted throughout with electricity and could seat up to 1,000 patrons. The total cost of the structure was $12,500.

The LaCrosse Republican called it "no doubt the best playhouse on the Missouri Pacific road between Salina and Pueblo." People of the day could hardly believe that this magnificent facility had arisen out of a tragedy that had happened less than one year before. The first performance, "St. Elmo", was held on April 25 of that year, nearly one year to the day from the date of the catastrophic fire. Live performances were regular at first, but with the growing popularity and advancement of the movie industry, motion pictures soon became the primary form of entertainment. On December 5, 1929, "Jerry of Jericho Road", presented by the LaCrosse High School Glee Clubs, was one of the last live performances held in the theatre.

In the late 1920s, Ralph and Jewell Larned came to LaCrosse and assumed operation of the opera house which by then had been renamed the LaCrosse Theatre. Under operation of the Larned's, the theatre was renamed the Paramount Theatre. Equipment was installed for the exhibition of sound movies. The first major renovation of the building involved bricking over many of the windows. On the front, four large upstairs windows were replaced with smaller windows while the lower windows remained unchanged. A triangular marquee bearing the Paramount name with space for listing current attractions was suspended over the entrance. The interior of the building was redesigned in a Spanish decor.

Following the war, advancements in the motion picture industry made it apparent that the theatre was due for another extensive face-lift. In January of 1946, the Paramount began temporary operations in the LaCrosse City Auditorium so that remodeling could begin in the theatre. The remodeling, touted as "the most extensive building project to be completed in LaCrosse since the close of the war," was completed in May 1946. The $25,000 remodeling entailed a complete remake of the building. The facility was designed by Robert O. Boller, nationally renowned theatre architect. Charles and O.L. Jones of LaCrosse were the contractors.

The entrance of the building was lowered to street level with a box-office built of glass block. A novel feature of the theatre was a "cry-room" with piped-in sound to allow parents with babies to enjoy the show without disturbing other patrons. A refreshment bar served from both the lobby and foyer. Sound and projection equipment were some of the finest available.

The front exterior was covered in buff stucco with chocolate-brown trim. The art deco style main room was finished in dusty pink accented with burgundy wainscoting. Burgundy, blue, and gold draperies framed a screen thirty feet wide. The main room seated 350 patrons in red velvet orchestra seats. The balcony seated an additional 174 patrons. To add to patrons' comfort, the entire building was heated and air-conditioned. The first show in the newly- remodeled theatre was "The Harvey Girls" starring Judy Garland, John Hodiak, and Ray Bolger.

The Larneds operated the Paramount until the late 1960s when the popularity of television began to force many community theatres out of business. In 1971, the theatre was reopened on weekends by Sterling and Steve Bagby who had recently reopened the local drive-in theatre. The Paramount was open again for only a brief time, before being permanently closed. In 1973, the seats were removed and placed in the new livestock sale barn north of LaCrosse. In 1974, the theatre was used in the filming of the television series, "Paper Moon."

Through the years, time and neglect had begun to take their toll on the once beautiful facility. For safety reasons, the marquee was removed and the box office was covered. The theatre building continued to be used as a warehouse until 1981. In April of that year, the building was razed to make room for a parking lot.

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Last featured 10/20/2002. Last edited 7/12/2009.

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