Practical Preservation: Fox West Theatre

A session by Dana Crawford, Gregory Friesen and Christopher Smith
Urban Neighborhoods, Inc., CSNA Studio and Urban Neighborhoods, Inc.

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Themes covered by this session

About this session

When the Jaffa Opera House of Trinidad closed in 1906, rancher Edward West decided to make use of his empty lot on Main Street to build a new theatre. West hired Isaac H. Rapp and William M. Rapp as the architects for the building, investing more than $130,000 for the new theatre’s construction. The West Theatre, an independently owned and operated performance venue, opened on March 16, 1908 just over a year after its groundbreaking. Historic Stage Services, international historic theatre experts, state that the Theatre may have the most intact stage of any in the country, if not the world, and describe it “as an incredibly important asset.” Investigation is being done to determine if the Fox West may be the first Rapp & Rapp theatre in the country as it predates by two years the first credited Rapp & Rapp theatre and collaboration is suspected. This is a very important theatre and we can’t wait to show it to you!

After virtually touring the theatre, learning about its history, and discovering its architectural significance, attendees will participate in a question and answer session with the project team working to bring the theatre back to life. The focus of the session will be “practical preservation” and what it means in the context of the redevelopment of the Fox West. For example, we have discovered the stage is remarkably intact. The concepts of rehabilitation and restoration will be explored. Do we return the theatre to a particular time period and keep the stage intact? Or, do we rehabilitate the building to make it useful and functional for contemporary performances? What are the costs involved and the practical implications of each approach?

We’ll explore fundraising in the time of COVID-19. A major fundraising event was planned that included a gala and a performance by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra in the theatre. Then COVID-19 hit and we were forced to get even more creative in our efforts. We’ll also explore the practical implications of taking on a complex and costly rehabilitation in a small, rural community. How does the approach to fundraising change given the realities of a smaller city budget and fewer potential local donors?

Stephanie Baaken with Urban Neighborhoods, Inc. will moderate the Q&A discussion.