I’m a sucker for an old theater. When my friend Johnna and I were in Estes Park, Colorado last year I whined until she pulled over so I could get a closer look at this beauty. It’s not like any other theater I’ve seen before.
The historic Park Theater was built in 1913 but the landmark neon outlined 80 foot tower wasn’t added until 1926. In addition to being one of the coolest theaters you’ll ever see, it’s the oldest operating cinema that was built to be a movie theater in the western United States.
And yes, it is a wood building.
It was locked up tight the day I stood there gaping in the snow and wind so strong it would knock you down.
According to the theater’s website, the construction was begun by J.L. Jackson but completed by C.H. Bond in 1913. It was Ralph Gwinn who added the tower thirteen years later. He dubbed it “the Tower of Love” because he built it to represent the beautiful love of his life.
How many gals can say they have a tower built in their honor?
This theater changed owners a couple of times before landing in the capable hands of experienced theater operators Mickey and Ola Stranger in 1968. They leased the theater until purchasing it in 1982. Mickey and Ola passed away in the early 2000s but their descendants continue to operate the theater as a family business today.
Estes Park actually has an ordinance banning neon lights but an exception was made for the theater and their neon has been restored. I imagine it is magnificent after dark but I missed the nighttime view because we got out of dodge before the roads got bad in this mountain town.
The current flick they’re showing? Casablanca.
Can you imagine seeing a classic film in a 1913 movie theater? Be still my heart. I’ll add that to my bucket list.