Crown Theatre Then and Now

208 Walnut/Gunsmoke Street

Dodge City has lost too many historic buildings and this one really makes me shake my head. I initially thought the Crown Theatre building had been extremely old when it was demolished but that was not the case at all. It was visually interesting and really should have had much more longevity. Obviously, I had to know more.

This particular lot had housed a tin shop, and later a windmill and water pump, but it was empty for more than a decade. That changed in 1923 when Dr. Winfield Thompson hired Boller and Boller of Kansas City to design a new theater building. It should be no surprise that the builder was Julian Parham!

The Dodge City Journal, April 5, 1923

W. H. Harpole managed several area theaters including the Chalk Beeson, the Cozy, the Dodge, and the DeLuxe in Spearville.

The Crown Theatre opened in November of 1923.

The Dodge City Journal, November 8, 1923

The 1926 Sanborn shows the theater at 208 Walnut Street with the stage at the north end of the building. Dr. Hellwarth’s dental office was apparently upstairs…maybe.

The Dodger, September 28, 1926

It’s a little confusing because the Crown building was attached to the building next door where many of you will remember seeing Tasker Office Supply. I found a ton of ads for doctors saying they were in the Crown Building but they were actually next door at 206 Walnut.

I could swear Dr. Gribble’s office was above Tasker’s but I’ve been wrong before.

The Dodge City Journal, December 12, 1929

It’s entirely possible that the second floor was open and the offices weren’t confined to one side or the other. They were not built at the same time and the configuration isn’t obvious.

The Dodge City Journal, April 3, 1930

Anyway, the Crown was called the Fox Crown Theatre by 1930. Fox ended up owning all of the theaters in Dodge.

The Montezuma Press, September 27, 1934

This screenshot is from a newsreel with the Richards Paint and Wallpaper sign illuminated in the background. You can just barely see the Tasker sign to the right.

“FILM STARS INVADE CITY” British Pathé newsreel

You can watch the trailer here. It’s also available on YouTube but there are a bunch of obnoxious pop-ups so good luck with that one.

Here’s what was showing at the Crown in 1942:

Photographer Unknown

The Dodge City Army Air Field newspaper offered free Crown movie passes for newsworthy stories.

Boot Hill Marauder, October 9, 1943

The Crown was remodeled and redecorated by Fox Midwest in 1947.

Box Office, August 2, 1947

Fox Plains Theatres Corporation (formed in 1933) subleased the Crown around 1949. Fox Plains turned around and subleased it to Glen Cooper, who opened the Cooper Theatre in 1953.

Dodge City Daily Globe, June 18, 1953

Cooper added a wide screen in June of 1954 without any interruption of showings. They simply hung a temporary narrow screen in front of the wide screen installation area.

Ted Page’s office moved upstairs in the late 1950s.

Dodge City Daily Globe, Kansas Centennial Special Edition, July 1961

The Cooper Theatre closed in March of 1961 and was replaced by Scholle’s Serva-Teria.

Dodge City Daily Globe, March 21, 1961

Scholle’s started moving equipment into the building in May of 1961.

Dodge City Daily Globe, Kansas Centennial Special Edition, July 1961

The Serva-Teria was remodeled in early 1967.

Dodge City Daily Globe, March 11, 1967

Ted Page had moved by that time and there were law offices upstairs.

Scholle’s moved again in 1969 and the building was vacant. Demolition began on the former Crown and Tasker’s buildings in December of 1970. In August of 1973, Southwestern Bell announced they would expand their office onto the lot where the Crown and Tasker’s (later Dodge City Office Equipment) had been.

Dodge City Daily Globe, August 24, 1973

Kansas winds caused some problems during construction but no one was injured. Notice the Janousek’s sign to the right at the old Montgomery Ward.

Dodge City Daily Globe, March 4, 1974

It took a second to get my bearings when I first saw this photo. The large building across the street to the left was the Masonic Temple, which was demolished soon after the article was printed. In the middle is the H. A. Hart building and on the right is the long dark brick building which is now part of Fidelity State Bank.

Dodge City Daily Globe, April 5, 1974

Here’s how the lot looks today:

Sigh…the 1970s, man. There’s nothing more I can say.

I’m working on a post about the original phone company building so I’ll provide more information about what all transpired there shortly.

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