Rath Theater Then and Now

205 West Chestnut Street / Wyatt Earp Boulevard

I’ve seen a ton of ads for the Rath Theater while looking for other things but I never paid attention to its location. The other day, I glanced at the address and realized the history of this plain building was really something.

Most Dodge City locals are familiar with Jacob Collar’s furniture and undertaker supply business. He was succeeded by Charles Dickerson who was later bought out by McVeigh and Kirkpatrick.

The 1884 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the back of a frame structure at what was then 328 West Chestnut Street. In those days, the store fronts were mainly located on the Front Street side and this lot had a furniture store with rooms for rent. The firms of F. A. Dunn and Co. merged with McVeigh and Kirkpatrick in October of 1884 and the new store was called Dunn and Kirkpatrick.

The Dodge City Democrat, November 29, 1884

They also had a store in Garden City. The partnership was dissolved in July of 1885 with Dunn assuming responsibility for the Garden City store and Kirkpatrick taking the one in Dodge. It is unclear how this transpired but suddenly there was a firm called Kirkpatrick and Dunn, this time with G. A. Dunn as partner.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, November 10, 1885

A catastrophic fire accelerated their construction plans in December of 1885. The map below isn’t to scale but at least it gives an idea of the layout. The fire started in a saloon right next door to the furniture store.

The Dodge City Democrat, December 12, 1885

The furniture store moved to Henry Sturm’s new brick building and excavation at the old site began almost immediately. Kirkpatrick and Dunn teamed up with their neighbors to the west to expedite rebuilding of the block.

The Dodge City Democrat, February 20, 1886

Just as the new building was nearing completion, the firm of Kirkpatrick and Dunn was dissolved. George Dunn retired but retained ownership of the structure. Ed Kirkpatrick continued the business as a sole proprietor as of late 1886.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, November 2, 1886

The 1887 Sanborn Map shows the furniture store taking up the entire building with frontage on both Chestnut and Front Streets. The block had been renumbered and the new address was 325 West Chestnut Street.

There were some issues early on with brick work having to be shored up on the new buildings in this block. The bricklayer was later killed by an architect in Denver after being accused of using inferior materials. Coincidence? We’ll never know.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, March 6, 1888

In May of 1895, Ed Kirkpatrick hired an undertaker by the name of Charles Hulpieu, who had recently moved from Garden City. When Ed Kirkpatrick moved his family to Arkansas City in early 1900, Charles Hulpieu and his brother-in-law, E. S. Adam, bought the store.

The Globe-Republican, January 11, 1900

Carrie Bainbridge, who as most of you know was Robert Rath’s mother, had bought the building around this time.

E. S. Adam bought out Hulpieu’s interest in the business in August of 1901. He operated as a sole proprietor until August of 1902 when the business became E. S. Adam & Company. His partner in this new company was former mayor, Adolphus Gluck. That partnership was dissolved with Gluck’s retirement in August of 1903 and Adam was a sole proprietor once again.

Meanwhile, Thanksgiving dinners in the Hulpieu-Adam family must have been a gas!

The Globe-Republican, January 28, 1904

Hulpieu had gone to work for the Russell Furniture Company and his brother-in-law was having none of it. But about a week later, the Russell Furniture Company bought out Adam’s store and installed Hulpieu as Manager. E. S. Adam then made arrangements to get outta Dodge…as one does.

The Globe-Republican, May 12, 1904

The business was called Home Furnishing Company and it was around for ages. The 1905 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows a furniture store on the main floor with club rooms upstairs. The club rooms seemed to have been used by Woodmen of the World, the Eagle Club, the Moose, etc.

Home Furnishing Company moved to a new location across Chestnut in early 1909 and Pastime Billiard Hall moved to the old spot that March with J. F. O’Neal as proprietor. O’Neal also operated a barber shop on the main floor.

The 1911 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the building’s new address of 205 West Chestnut Street. The building was destroyed in the Opera House fire on March 10, 1912.

In October of 1912, debris was still being cleared from the site in preparation for rebuilding. O’Neal thought he would be able to reopen his establishments but the Rath family had other ideas. Carrie Bainbridge terminated O’Neal’s lease based on the argument that the building was destroyed by a fire and this invalidated the lease. O’Neal sued and the courts initially sided with Bainbridge. O’Neal appealed and the case dragged on for quite a while.

In the meantime, the structure was rebuilt and Robert Rath planned to open the Rath Theater on December 7, 1912. Jack G. Abbott was hired as Manager.

Nothing ever goes exactly as planned and the 400-seat theater opened on December 30, 1912 to a packed house.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, December 28, 1912

You are not going to believe this but “From the Manger to the Cross” can be viewed online here.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, June 10, 1913

Jack Abbott left for California and began working at a company that manufactured motion picture film. He was replaced as Manager by F. A. Etrick.

Meanwhile, J. F. O’Neal’s suit against Carrie Bainbridge went all the way to the Kansas Supreme Court. He didn’t get his lease back but he was awarded compensation.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, March 9, 1915

Dances were held on the second floor above the theater.

Dodge City Daily Globe, September 21, 1915

The upstairs rooms were also used for various courses in shorthand and commercial spelling. Some courses were taught by traveling instructors but J. E. Shinn also gave instruction.

Dodge City Daily Globe, March 9, 1916

In October of 1916, F. A. Etrick announced he would become Rath’s competitor at the end of his lease. J. E. Shinn became the new manager and the theater was remodeled.

Dodge City Daily Globe, October 2, 1916

Ray Peacock of Stafford leased the theater in early 1917 and it reopened March 1. He was having trouble finding housing in Dodge. Go figure! The theater was remodeled again with new seats and new projection equipment.

1918 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the theater with frontage on both Chestnut and Front Streets. By 1920, the theater was operated by Frank E Drake. J. E. Dunbar operated a piano tuning business upstairs in the Moose Hall.

Etricks’ Directory of Ford County 1920

It was reported that Drake sold the theater to H. G. and Oscar Souder at the beginning of July 1921 but something may have prevented the sale from being finalized. W. H. Harpole purchased the theater later that month and it was redecorated again.

The Dodge City Journal, July 28, 1921

Harpole is the one who reopened the establishment as the Cozy Theatre, which many of you may remember. He was also a partner in the Crown Theatre and had a long-term lease at the Chalk Beeson Theater.

The Dodge City Journal, September 22, 1921

The Cozy was redecorated yet again in May of 1925. Its regular programming was shown at the Chalk Beeson during that time. This photo shows the Front Street entrance in 1925.

Photographer Unknown

In this photo from March of 1930, you can see the Front Street entrance looks more like two exits and it’s very utilitarian.

Photographer Unknown

In June of 1930, the Cozy was gutted by a fire that started in the basement.

The Spearville News, July 3, 1930

Clearly, the Cozy was remodeled and reopened. By 1931, it was a Fox theater and it had its ups and downs opening and closing and reformatting. Although the Cozy found itself running second-rate shows in the 1930s, it was part of the premiere of “Dodge City” in April of 1939 due to the insane demand for tickets.

By 1947, the Cozy was still plugging along and the upper floor was used as a residence.

Dodge City’s Diamond Jubilee Souvenir, 1947, published by the Dodge City Chamber of Commerce

But by 1953, the entire building was vacant.

Photo by Troy Robinson

Around that time, Glenn Cooper bought the building and it was renamed the Loy Theatre. The upper floor was once again used as a residence. That renaissance was short lived, however, and by 1955 the building was home to Paul Warner Appliances with the Knickerbocker Club upstairs.

Disabled American Veterans and Automatic Door Controls Company used the upper floor for a brief time around 1960 but the appliance store remained on the main level until the bitter end.

You know what happened next. Progress.

Garden City Telegram, September 11, 1969

The photo below shows the Wyatt Earp Boulevard entrance shortly before demolition.

Photo courtesy Marin Lix

Here is the Front Street entrance. You can see the building interiors were already being cleared.

Photo courtesy Marin Lix

Click here for the Google Street View of the block as it appears now.

As much as I hate to see historical buildings destroyed, they were allowed to deteriorate to the point where it was basically the only option. Funding was much more difficult to obtain in those days. Building owners have many more resources now to help with historic preservation before it’s too late.

UPDATE: A reader sent me a screenshot from a British Pathé newsreel that shows the exterior of the Cozy during the world premiere of “Dodge City.” Instead of taking my chances with their licensing requirements, I’m linking here to the short newsreel. Enjoy!

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