Thursday, April 24, 2008

Local Celebrations - Capitol Theatre Restoration

Another week has come and gone. I meant to post this last week, and then life got away on me yet again. In any case, last weekend was the twentieth anniversary of the restoration and reopening of the Capitol Theatre here in Nelson. But the Capitol Theatre's history goes back to 1927 when it first opened at a cost of $75,000 which was, undoubtedly, a pretty penny back in those days, and indeed, it was lauded as one of the finest theatres on the continent at the time. It served mainly as a movie house in the Paramount chain of leased theatres, delighting audiences with all the earliest films following the silent movie era. These showings were interspersed with live dramatic performances of traveling companies and local groups.

The thirties were the hey-day of cinema and crowds flocked to see nightly shows complimented by live acts to introduce the movies. In the mid-thirties, the old Opera House in Nelson burnt down and the 1000 seat Civic Theatre, which I understand was a depression "make work" project, was built. It's initial purpose was for live theatre.

During the wartime forties, cinema began to fall out of fashion as people had less time and money. Eventually, Famous Player, holding the lease on both theatres, opted to book the larger Civic Theatre for films. The Capitol continued to sporadically show films along with live acts and music shows, however, as time went on, these began to dwindle in number. By the fifties, as necessary repairs and improvements to the building were neglected, the Capitol fell into disrepair. For awhile, it was used as an auction hall and furniture warehouse and at some point in the sixties, the seats were eventually removed. By this point, the roof leaked and the Theatre which had once held audiences spellbound, sat in a dank pool of water. Indeed, its future looked bleak.

By the early eighties, the seeds of a dream had been planted, and the Capitol Theatre Restoration Society had formed. Locals began to raise funds, and soon thereafter, the City of Nelson acquired the building. Through a fortuitous stroke of luck in the mid-eighties, a significant government grant allowed the project to really get under way. The Theatre was completely gutted, and received an extreme makeover. The original side murals on the walls were lovingly restored, the stage area was increased, and among other things, rich crimson carpets and seats were installed. By the time the repairs and restoration were finished, this original Art Deco Theatre had never looked more grand. Since this time, the Capitol Theatre has reclaimed its prestigious place in Nelson's history as it has once again become the hub of the performing arts in this community. If you're ever passing through, make sure you check out.


writer-in-residence said...

How wonderful to see - history of nostalgia - returned with such enthusiasm of restoration.

Community spirit can make a difference and may the heart awaken to the sounds once again.

I just noticed your location is 'Nelson' I was wondering if the name originates from Nelson in Lancashire,here in the UK?

Annie Wicking and Loman Austen said...

So very beautiful! I hope the ghosts of its past comes to stand on the stage.

I love it when wonderful old buildings and loving restored.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

Best wishes

thailandchani said...

That is a really great looking place!

The Fool said...

It's a beautiful theater, and a lovely restoration, Nomad. What a great project and addition to the community. It's so much warmer than the multi-plex theaters of today. The Capital seems to have everything they lack - character. Thanks for sharing. And it does get busy in the trenches at this time of year, eh? Take care.

Carla said...

Peter, Nelson was named for Lord Nelson and I'm going have to jog my memory to try to remember exactly who he was and what he did, so bare with me...I'll have to get back to you on that one.

Annie, I love it when old buildings are restored as well. They really did a fine job on this one. I think that every time I visit the place.

Carla said...

Chani, I think so as well. The community loves the place and uses it often.

Fool, The place certainly has character and history. Like you said, much more interesting than much of what they're building these days. And as for the trenches, yep, it's busy.

dawn said...

We have a couple in Edmonton like that, the Princess Theatre and the Garnaeu. I think both have been restored although I think the Garneau may have closed recently. The princess show foreign films and has live theatre also and is in the University area of Old Strathcona. I don't remember going there, but have passed it a lot (even yesterday). I think that is where they are playing a live theatre version of Misery in the next couple of weeks.

dawn said...

Just wanted to make a correction. 'Misery' is playing at Theatre Network at the Roxy in Edmonton. Another old theatre I had forgotten about.

Steffi said...

That´s a really nice place!Great pics,Carla!

Reebockers said...

The Capitol Theatre got redone?!

I have to confess that I've been a "lurker" on your blog. While googling the Whitewater Cookbook, I stumbled across your blog.

I grew up in Nelson and so I've been frequenting your blog out of interest, just for old times sake I guess. hehe.

It's nice to see some things haven't changed about Nelson, while other things have. I have quite a few memories from the Capitol, and Wendy Herbeson was my brother and sister's violin teacher for many years.

I enjoy your blog!

Carla said...

Dawn, I think it's so nice when a piece of history is restored.

Steffi, I'm glad you think so. We sure think it's special around here.

Carla said...

Reebockers, Thanks for dropping by. And ironically, Wendy Herbeson taught both my sisters their instruments as well. Too funny. I guess that's what happens with a small town.