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The Jones Theater

By Mike Rosso

Colorado Central readers looking for a true Western experience, need go no further than the town of Westcliffe, in the Wet Mountain Valley and take a seat at the historic Jones Theater.

Whether its a film, theater performance or concert, there are few venues in the region that capture the small town, intimate feel of the Jones.

What began in the 1800s as the Kasper and Klutz saloon and pool hall, servicing the miners from nearby Silver Cliff and Rosita (on what was referred to at the time as “Dutch Row”), eventually packed up the beer taps and pool cues and began delighting the masses with moving pictures.

Photo by Mike Rosso.

In the 1920s, the building was purchased by a fellow named June Canda, who started showing silent movies in the former wild West saloon. Canda also owned a grocery store and cold storage business across Main Street from the theater.

When the wind blew the roof off of a competing theater, the projectionist and pianist relocated across the street to Canda’s theater.

A Peerless carbon-arc projector was purchased in 1938 and was in operation until 2014 when it was replaced by a modern digital projector.

The theater underwent a remodel in 1941, with new seats and a redecorated lobby. Canda also acquired 200 horse hair seats from a remodeled theater in Colorado Springs. He ran the theater until his death in 1963, and his wife Catherine Suzanne continued to operate it. In 1964, heavy snowfall collapsed a portion of the roof and she was forced to close and then sell the theater.

It was purchased that same year by local ranchers Lawrence and Louise Jones, who were looking for an additional revenue stream besides cattle. They changed the name to the Jones Theater and showed films for the next seven years. It was then purchased by Iris and Dick Wilson who ran it for the next nine years before it sold again to Lee Schambach in 1980, a local dentist who added an office and apartment in the rear and continued his practice while showing movies. In 1992, he quit both the dental and movie business and sold the building to the Relph Family Trust, who are the current owners. The Westcliffe Center for the Performing Arts (WCPA) was formed in 1992 as a not-for-profit corporation to maintain the theater both as a movie house and for live productions.

With the help of volunteers and foundation grants, the theater was refurbished to represent its 1930s heyday. (I’ve heard rumors that the old chairs had baskets under the seats for the gentleman to park their cowboy hats, but those were not in evidence the last time I was there).


In addition to the theater, the building hosts “Studio 2,” which provides space for sets and costumes, a Youth Theater for rehearsals and exhibits, and living quarters for summer interns. The horsehair seats were upgraded in 2005.

WCPA presents eight live productions outdoors each summer at the nearby Amphitheater Park, including a summer Shakespeare series, and a full season of first-run movies in the theater, which has 184 seats. The local high school also presents several productions during the year. The theater is also used for many concerts ranging from bluegrass to opera.

GETTING THERE: Take Colo. Hwy. 69 south from U.S. Hwy. 50 or Colo. Hwy 96 west from Pueblo to downtown Westcliffe. The Jones Theater is located at 119 Main Street.