Colorado Endangered Places: The Isis Theater

By Kim Grant, Colorado Preservation, Inc.

Victor, Colorado, has a rich architectural heritage and a colorful and bawdy past, to put it mildly. The Isis Theatre, located in the heart of the small downtown and its former Red Light district, epitomizes this wildly entertaining past as it serves as a panorama of the history of live theatre, motion pictures, and entertainment from the earliest era of the town up until the present. The original theater was built in 1899 but burned down along with most of the town that year. It was rebuilt in 1904 and is the only theater in town and is an integral part of the National Register Historic District.

The theater’s stage has been used for vaudeville shows, plays and movies and contains a vast display of memorabilia, including vintage costumes, playbills, posters, theater curtains, and its original piano. The art nouveau light fixtures in the auditorium are believed to be original to the post-fire building of 1904. There are about 300 wooden, upholstered seats left in various condition, with elaborate carvings on the end-of-row seats. Upstairs there are two vintage arc-light projectors believed to be in working condition that are thought to have some direct link to Thomas Edison’s designs for DC voltage, which subsequently required converters in the basement after rival Nikola Tesla implemented Victor’s groundbreaking AC power grid.

The theater’s owners, teacher-historian Cynthia Hermanns and artist-musician Daniel Whitmore are local residents who love the community and set out to find a vacant building to buy that could make a significant positive impact on the town. The city of Victor, mayor and council and area business owners all support the ongoing care and future rehabilitation of the Isis Theatre. As a candidate community in the Colorado Main Street Program, Victor hopes that rehabilitation and re-use of the long-closed theatre can serve as a catalyst for broader downtown and community revitalization. CPI supports these goals and will provide technical expertise and help with finding additional partners and resources for the preservation effort. An initial site orientation is scheduled for April 3 in Victor to get the ball rolling. A film shot in Victor was recently shown in the old theatre. Space heaters were set up, popcorn was made and a large crowd turned up.

Endangered Places nomination site reviewer Lisa May put it best when she exclaimed, “The building is not just significant, bawdy, uproarious and enchanting. The building and its fixtures are beautiful and uplifting. The technology is rare and full of surprises.”