Delmar Garden Theater
Noble at SW Second Street,
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Architects: William A. Wells
Styles: Art Nouveau
Athel Boiter, a sweetheart of a man who was a film booker knowledgeable in theater lore, once told me the history of Delmar Garden Theater.
Mr. Boiter said that John Sinopoulo was a Greek immigrant who wanted to build a stylish amusement complex that held a uniting theme throughout a park setting. In 1902 Sinopoulo opened on the banks of the North Canadian River his Delmar Gardens Amusement Park, which was designed in elaborate Art Nouveau styling that blended blissfully with surrounding wooded acreage.
Delmar Gardens Park offered an exotic animal zoo, festive penny arcade, thrill rides, cafes and a fine restaurant, a floating wedding chapel, a swank ballroom, a blue ribbon horse racing track, a tranquil boardwalk beer garden, a high class saloon dance hall, and a top notch 3,000-seat theater.
Delmar Garden Theater interior was designed in intricate Victorian gingerbread, with Art Nouveau accents. Orchestra seating held leather upholstered opera chairs, box seats contained comfortable wicker chairs and love-seats, and three horseshoe shaped balconies were equiped with steep pitch bleachers. While the auditorium had soft gas lighting, the heavily draped stage was brilliantly illuminated by electric switchboard lighting.
Built to be a vaudeville house, Delmar Garden Theater also installed film equipment in 1903 to feature “The Great Train Robbery”, which ran for eleven weeks. Regardless of the fact that film showings at the Delmar proved to be successful, management preferred to continue mainly as a two-a-day vaudeville venue, with only an occasional movie thrown in at the end of a weak vaudeville program. (One advantage for vaudvillians appearing on the family oriented Delmar stage was that they could also present “adult material” in late night sketches at the Delmar Saloon).
Lon Chaney, Sr. was appearing at Delmar Theater in 1905 when he rescued a beautiful 16 year-old songbird from a flooded basement dressing room. Her name was Cleva Crieghton, and after a whirlwind courtship the couple married there in Oklahoma City, but whether or not they took advantage of the romantic Delmar Garden floating chapel is lost to time.
Back in those early days, every spring the North Canadian River overflowed its banks causing extensive water damage to Delmar Gardens Park. Flooding was the reason for an early demise of this lovely pleasuredome. It closed in 1910, and was razed the following year.
Click the below link to view antique color postcard images of Delmar Gardens Amusement Park and Theater.
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