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Thanks for linking to my photo. Yes, this was taken about the time I began working with the hometown folks to do something about the theater. There is a sad beauty in an image like that. With the restoration, we lost some of the grit that makes these places so interesting, but I figure there are plenty more ruins to look at in small towns across the country.
The town has really gotten behind the theater. We all have enjoyed taking our kids to movies when we’re visiting for holidays, and the live shows have been well attended with many folks coming from other towns. The dressing rooms are second to none, and the auditorium itself is top notch. I hope you can see the interior – please ask Joe Ponder for a tour when you’re in town next time.
The Ritz opened its doors to the public Friday, Aug. 10 with a showing of “Rush Hour 3”. This is the first movie in the Ritz in more than 25 years. It’s been an amazing transformation from an almost forgotten ruin to just about everyone’s new favorite place to be.
The Equire was located at 19th and Washington, which is now the intersection of West Interstate 40 and Washington. It survived the construction of I-40 but was leveled to make way for an office building in the late 70s or early 80s. That building is now the Amarillo headquarters for HRH Insurance.
Here are two news links relating to the sign restoration and the development of the building.
“The lights will shine” Amarillo Globe-News 8-17-2006 View link
“Paramount to house eateries” Amarillo Globe-News 8-20-2006
One upscale restaurant is already beginning construction work on the ground floor. There is talk of restoring the auditorium for special events, independent films or some kind of entertainment venue. Our foundation is talking with the building owner about rebuilding the marquee under the restored sign. The sign has completely changed the landscape of our main downtown street, which is developing a fun and eclectic nightlife. Downtown Amarillo is coming back slowly but surely.
The July photos that were submitted show the overgrown trees and not much of the facade of the theater. We removed two trees to make room for the sign, and here are some photos of the installation and the finished product: View link
Also, check out some great photos from the Polk Street Block Party that show the lighting of the sign on Aug. 19.
The sign is being re-hung tomorrow morning (Wednesday, Aug. 16). It has been completely restored, painted red and gold (to match its 1950s appearance) and burns with 850 colored bulbs and red neon. It will be relighted Saturday night (Aug. 19) by the mayor of Amarillo in front of the crowd at our annual street festival, the Polk Street Block Party. I’ll try to get a photo of the finished product onto the news site. Watch for more news at www.amarillo.com, the website for our local daily newspaper. A developer has purchased the building and is announcing some new restaurants that will go in at street level. It is hoped that what is left of the auditorium will be transformed into a ballroom or event space of some kind since the art deco ceiling of the theater is still intact. We might even bring movies back.
All contracts have been awarded and major reconstruction is now under way. A revised plan has taken in a neighboring building where a new concession area will be housed, along with an event space and dressing rooms. The balcony and stage have been rebuilt and a new floor has been poured. Work should be completed in the spring of 2007. Historic Wellington is seeking startup funding from outside grants, but most of the capital expense (at least $2.5 million) is coming from the Zephyr Foundation based in Wellington. Funds may be contributed to Historic Wellington, Inc., 1600 Haskell St., Wellington, TX 79095.
The Wellington Economic Development Corp. and Historic Wellington have hired Killis Almond & Associates, Inc. of San Antonio to complete this project. Almond has been involved in several theater restorations around the country, and has an extensive preservation resume. It has taken us almost four years to get this off the ground. Since the project began, we have stabilized the building, cleaned it, replaced the roof and have restored most of the facade (including a restoration of the vintage neon sign and marquee). Much of this work has been chronicled in the Cinema Treasures restorations/renovations news site. It is hoped most of the remaining work can be finished by the fall of 2006.
The Amarillo Historical Preservation Foundation has made a down payment on the original blade sign, which now is stuck on a pole at an adult video store in a warehouse district. A local sign company has agreed to take the sign some time in January, 2006 and begin restoration. It is possible the original sign will be placed back in its original location next spring. No plans exist to restore the building to its original use, but the locals are still very much in love with the Paramount.
Sorry about that – we need to do some updating. You can direct any inquiries directly to me, Wes Reeves, at
I’d say yes but I can’t commit to anyone right now. I have a friend here in Amarillo who designed the poster that’s on our site, and I would like to give him first crack at it. I’ve just been too busy with a paying job, a family (a good thing)and all the hassles of trying to manage this theater restoration from a distance of 100 miles that I can’t seem to get things together. I appreciate the offer – keep in touch.
Sorry you missed us, Seth. Maybe you can make the trip again, and if you do, let me know so I can show you where to find the beauty around here. Our looks are deceiving – we throw in the Seminoles and the Andrews to scare folks away so they don’t crowd us. There are some great little towns around here, and in between there are some terrific drives. Look for more news on the Ritz – we just got the windows in, the roof finished, and on Aug. 6 we’re going to light up our restored blade sign. We’ve got money and things are looking great.
Presently we have only a domain name registered at www.historicwellington.org A full-fledged site is in the works.