Park I & II Theatre

3015 Washington Avenue,
Racine, WI 53405

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Capitol Theater, Racine (Official)

Additional Info

Previously operated by: Marcus Theatres

Architects: Alexander Hamilton Bauer, Gustave A. Dick, J. Mandor Matson

Firms: Dick & Bauer Inc.

Styles: Renaissance Revival

Previous Names: Capitol Theater

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News About This Theater

Capital Theater Racine, WI 1941.

The Capitol Theater was opened May 30, 1928 as a neighorhood vaudeville and movie theatre the interior was beautifully finished with ornate plasterwork and stencilling. A large indirectly light oval covers three quarters of the auditorium ceiling. The proscenium is decorated with plaster ropes flowers and twists. Two pipe chambers complete with false boxes are located on either side of the stage. At one time the theatre boasted a 2/8 Wurlitzer pipe organ.

It was twinned on March 5, 1976 and was renamed Park I & II Theatre in August 1981. The Wurlitzer organ was removed and much of the plaster work covered. Closed on September 1, 1987 with “House II:The Second Story”, it has since been allow to suffer much decay and water damage. Efforts by locals to save the theatre were met with deaf ears by the town council and it was demolished in late-February/early March 2021.

Contributed by Paul Grant

Recent comments (view all 46 comments)

LouRugani on February 10, 2021 at 8:29 am

LouRugani on February 12, 2021 at 5:40 pm

Preservationists say they have the money to save the Capitol-Park Theater; seek meeting with city leaders

RACINE — The contract that authorized Azarian Wrecking to demolish the Capitol-Park Theater on behalf of the City of Racine went into effect on Tuesday. On Thursday afternoon, the building was still standing, the reason for the delay unknown. The demolition authorization lasts until near the end of the month. Sam Azarian, owner of Azarian Wrecking, did not return calls Thursday. Jonathan Eeg and Reme Bashi — members of the community trying to save the historic theater — were out in front of the building on Thursday, despite the freezing temperature.

“We’re still hopeful,” Eeg said.

The Friends of the Capitol Theater announced this week they had raised the money in pledges needed to address the city’s most pressing concerns, 1. That the building is dangerous, and 2. The city would be liable if anyone were hurt as a result.

“We can start next week,” Eeg said of the plan to secure the building.

They also submitted a 7-page development/restoration plan to the city.

They continue to seek a meeting with city leaders, namely Mayor Cory Mason.

Growing response

The group Friends of The Capitol Theater released a photo this week of the snow accumulated on the Capitol-Park’s roof, an aerial photo that showed the roof had not collapsed under the first serious snowfall of the winter.

Ken Plaski, the city’s chief building inspector, predicted the roof could collapse in the first big snowstorm. But the historic building withstood the storm, again.

Bashi said pledges and contacts continue to come in — not only from the U.S. but from other countries, as well.

Musicians especially are interested in the Capitol-Park Theater because it is where Waukesha-native Les Paul — then known as Red Hot Red — allegedly “got the bug” to be a performer and musician. Paul went on to invent the solid body electric guitar and is now enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Bashi said she only recently became aware the theater was in trouble. So, she went to work contacting people and trying to get the word out.

She said there were so many uses for the old theater, including the potential for a Racine Cultural Art Center.

“It costs the city nothing to wait,” Eeg said, explaining if the group just had three months, they could demonstrate for the city that the building could be saved.

City leaders have repeatedly expressed concern that the building could collapse and injure someone or damage property. Were that to happen right now, prior to anyone else taking over the building, the city (and thus taxpayers) could be held liable.

LouRugani on February 13, 2021 at 6:16 pm

As demolition looms, Racine group holds out hope for theater By Bret Lemoine, FOX6 News, Milwaukee RACINE, Wis. - The wrecking ball is inching closer to a Racine theater built in 1928. Weather may have stalled demolition for now, but it’s not stopping one woman’s determination to save it.

If you’re surprised to see Racine’s Capitol-Park Theater still standing, don’t tell Judith Schulz.

“It will stand forever if no one knocks it down,” Schulz said.

Schulz continues her fight to keep the wrecking ball away. The city issued a raze order, and it was expected to be torn down this week.

“For me, my family built it. But my heart opened up to this whole thing when I started seeing how many other people care about this,” said Schulz.

In January, FOX6 News was there as Racine police kept Schulz and members of her Capitol Theater Friends group from going inside. Crews had just finished asbestos abatement and deemed the nearly 100-year-old building unsafe.

“Give this building a chance to relive its history in Racine forever,” said Joanne Haysmer-Wachs.

Schulz’s group announced in January that it had raised $40,000 in pledges to repair the building’s roof and brick walls. City officials said that wouldn’t come close to covering the $157,000 in unpaid property taxes that have accumulated over the last decade.

“The county has given us a couple of processes we can use. One is a payment plan – a monthly payment plan over five years,” said Schulz.

The city also estimates restoration costs could reach $9 million or more. Schulz, though, disputes that.

A city spokesman tells FOX6 that the crews contracted to tear it down have a total of 15 days to complete the project. Schulz envisions the space as a cultural arts center for the community.

“We submitted to the city on Feb. 5 a development plan. Yes, we should have submitted it sooner,” Schulz said.

Every day it stays untouched is another day Schulz can dream of an encore for the once majestic venue: “There’s always hope! It’s still standing.”

Schulz said her group has entered into a purchasing agreement with the building’s current owner. The 15-day demolition timeline started on Tuesday, Feb. 9 – leaving less than two weeks to be torn down.

Statement from the City of Racine:

“The City of Racine appreciates the dedication and enthusiasm of those individuals who want to preserve the Park Theatre. Unfortunately, the current owner of the building is engaged in what we call demolition by neglect. He has allowed the building to fall into terrible disrepair, has not paid taxes in many years, and is now looking to off load the property to avoid his responsibilities. While the group from West Racine has the best intentions, they have not been able to raise enough funds to cover the cost of repairs, take on the tax liability from the current owner which is necessary to acquire the property, or begun the capital campaign to raise the 9-13 million dollars to restore the building. The process the group outlined to the City includes hopes that the County will forgive the back taxes, foreclose on the property, transfer it to the City, and assumes the City would be willing to take on the liabilities owning a property in that condition. Even if this process were possible, it would require multiple votes from the County Board and City Council, and would take a significant period of time. While we understand that local residents have asked others to review the condition of the building, City elected leaders and staff must trust and rely on the 30 years of expertise that our Chief Building Inspector has in evaluating structures. He takes no pleasure in having to take down a building like this, but does not believe the structural integrity of the building will withstand harsh winds or heavy snows, let alone, the pounding and shaking of road construction set to begin adjacent to the building this spring. We hope the local residents will find other buildings which are less far gone to invest in and preserve, and that as a City, we must find ways to hold property owners responsible so that this scenario does not continue to repeat itself.”

LouRugani on February 14, 2021 at 5:20 pm

The following is the Wisconsin State Historical Society’s file on the CAPITOL Theatre:

“3015-3021 WASHINGTON AVE, a Mediterranean Revival theater, built in Racine, Wisconsin in 1928. 3015-3021 WASHINGTON AVE, a Mediterranean Revival theater, built in Racine, Wisconsin in 1928. 3015-3021 WASHINGTON AVE, a Mediterranean Revival theater, built in Racine, Wisconsin in 1928. 3015-3021 WASHINGTON AVE, a Mediterranean Revival theater, built in Racine, Wisconsin in 1928. 3015-3021 WASHINGTON AVE, a Mediterranean Revival theater, built in Racine, Wisconsin in 1928. Historic Name:Capitol Theatre Reference Number:120910 Location (Address):3015-3021 WASHINGTON AVE County:Racine City:Racine PROPERTY FEATURES Year Built:1928 Survey Date:20012015 Historic Use:theater Architectural Style:Mediterranean Revival Structural System:Brick Wall Material:Brick Architect:Dick and Bauer Additional Information:A ‘site file’ exists for this property. It contains additional information such as correspondence, newspaper clippings, or historical information. It is a public record and may be viewed in person at the Wisconsin Historical Society, State Historic Preservation Office. Resurveyed 2015.

Built in 1928 as Capitol Theater. Movie theater and vaudeville stage. Theater twinned in 1976, closed in 1986.

2016- “The Capitol Theatre is located on Washington Avenue on the far west side of the city of Racine in the neighborhood of West Racine (Figures 1 and 2). The building occupies the entire parcel on which it sits. A sidewalk parallels the north side of the property and a narrow alley runs the length of the east side of the property between it and a commercial building and parking lot. Additional parking lots are located to the west and south of the property. Residential parcels are located at the southern end of the west side of the property.

Exterior The two-story Capitol Theatre was constructed in 1928.1 It has a rectangular footprint with an angled facade to conform to Washington Avenue (Figure 3). The building has a flat roof with a brick chimney stack. The rear portion, where the stage/screen was, is a story taller than the front of the building. The facade front Washington Avenue is divided into three sections consisting of a central pavilion housing the theater entrance flanked by a storefront bay on either side. The pavilion has a front gable roof that is capped in large tiles and is framed by wide brick pilasters. The pilasters have concrete caps. A decorative motif adorns the east pilaster. The pavilion’s second story is brick with tiled and stucco panels. A prominent window display on the pavilion’s second story consists of three one-over-one sash windows in arched openings. Each arch is framed in alternating bricks and concrete pieces, and Ionic pilasters flank the center window. Each of these windows has a relief motif set into the arch above the window opening.

The theater marquee divides the first and second story of the pavilion. The marquee angles outward over the sidewalk and has a stepped, vertical panel of lights at its center. The sides of the marquee have backlit message boards with changeable lettering. Each side is topped by a backlit sign that reads “The Park.” The theater entrance is glazed with two pairs of off-center glass doors with glass transom windows, and a plate glass display window is located to the west of the doors. The walls surrounding the entrance are clad in vertical wood siding.

The flanking storefront sections each have a shallow, tiled, shed roof within the parapet. Both sections are divided into three fenestration bays and have a single brick dentil course directly below the shed roofs. The walls are brick and have decorative brick and tile panels below the second-story windows, and concrete belt courses above the storefronts. The second-story windows are one-over-one sashes. The east section’s second-story windows are capped with lintels of alternating brick and concrete pieces. The east section’s storefront has a transom window that consists of square glass lights and spans its full width. The east two bays are glazed with plate glass display windows resting on a tiled wall. The store entrance is angled and recessed in the westernmost bay.

The west section’s second-story windows are also one-over-one sashes, but are unevenly spaced. The eastern and central bays have lintels of alternating brick and concrete that match those on the east section; however, the outer, western window is set into an arched opening with a motif that matches those in the center pavilion. The distinction between the western window bay and the other two bays is also enhanced by a small break in the belt course. The window’s arch is mirrored on the bay’s first story, which consists of an entrance recessed within an arched entryway. The arch is comprised of composite pilasters that are topped by alternating brick and concrete pieces on the outside of the arch and narrow concrete pieces on the inside. A storefront occupies the eastern two first-story bays of the west section. The easternmost bay is glazed with a large, plate glass display window resting on a tiled wall. The central bay has an angled, recessed pedestrian door. The remaining storefront wall is clad in vertical wood siding.

The east, west, and south elevations consist of brick walls with minimal fenestration. The east elevation has a stepped parapet near the center of the elevation. A pair of one-over-one sash windows is located on the second story of the north end, with a single one-over-one sash window below.To the south of the paired windows is an enclosed porch with a doorway and two plate glass windows, and is clad in horizontal siding. A window is located below that has been infilled. A single one-over-one window is located towards the south, rear portion of the east elevation, and several paired doors are located below grade along the elevation. The rear, south elevation has paired doors on the east and west ends of the first story, and a long, narrow window above a concrete block-filled portion towards the west side. The west elevation has a stepped parapet that mirrors that on the east elevation, and paired, single windows towards the north end. The approximate northern one-third of the west elevation has been covered in stucco.

Interior The main entrance of the theater, located below the marquee in the central pavilion section, opens onto a long, narrow lobby. The floor is tiled and the ceiling is coated in plaster with a rough finish. The side walls are divided into sections by pilasters, which are topped by an entablature with ornamental plaster running the length of the lobby. Within each segment is a rectangular panel, with ornamental plaster along the edges and glass-front display units in the center, which are also surrounded by ornamental plaster and topped by hooded light fixtures. To the rear of the lobby is a small foyer with an arched ceiling and ornamental plaster along the cornice. Small restrooms are located on the east and west sides of the foyer. The projection room is located above the foyer.

The original theater auditorium is located behind the foyer. The interior of the auditorium has been heavily altered from its original configuration. In 1975 and 1976, the theater was divided into two separate screening rooms? This was accomplished by bisecting the main theater down the center, from north to south. A partition wall was installed by cutting directly through the oval, coffered, plaster ceiling. The coffered ceiling contains ornamental plasterwork along the interior margins, and decorative stenciling is located between the coffer and exterior corners of the auditorium. In addition to loss of original material, there are many holes and other damaged areas in the ceiling. Other alterations have included installing a new wall at the front of the theater for the projection screen, installing fabric panels on the walls, and installing a ventilation system and drop ceiling, which also resulted in significant damage to the plaster ceiling. Some ductwork, and the metal skeleton of the drop ceiling and several ceiling panels remain. No theater seats remain in the building.

Behind the projection screen wall is the original stage/screening area of the theater, which was not as impacted by the interior remodel. Segments of the original plaster on the walls remain, including fluted pilasters and large panels outlined in ornamental plaster that reach from the floor to the ceiling. A large pilaster on each side, with paired brackets, supports a large arch spanning the width of the theater that has ornate plasterwork. A portion of the large, coffered ceiling is visible, although it was also bisected by the projection screen wall. To the front of the coffer is an ornate ventilation grill surrounded by stenciling.

The stage is surrounded by a large, wide proscenium arch that is covered in ornamental plaster, which is painted in many places. Above and to the front of the stage is an oblong ceiling coffer. To the sides, and slightly in front of, the stage, are two opera boxes. These are also set within arches that have ornamental plaster, and above each arch is a decorative plaster wreath and garland."

Bibliographic References:“Park I and II Theater.” Accessed April 1, 2015. www. RECORD LOCATION Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, State Historic Preservation Office, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

LouRugani on February 26, 2021 at 10:31 am

Demolition of the former Capitol / Park Theater on Washington Avenue in Racine began three days ago despite continuing pleas to the mayor, Cory Mason, for delays so the Friends of the Capitol Theatre could present its plans for saving it.

The daily Racine Journal-Times wrote that demolition was authorized for this month but was delayed by recent heavy snowfall.

The Friends of the Capitol Theater announced that it had raised sufficient funds to meet the theatre’s most pressing needs, but the group’s hard-fought and vocal efforts were unsuccessful in convincing city officials to delay demolition.

The Journal-Times reported that despite city leaders' repeated insistence that the building complex could collapse and injure someone or damage property with resultant litigation, the paper reported that the building was steadfast and its roof held tight during the recent onslaught.

dansdriveintheater on February 26, 2021 at 12:46 pm

@LouRugani nooooooooooooooo! so if it gets completely torn down it cannot be replaced also the the theatre still has a website!

markp on February 26, 2021 at 1:34 pm

They are already making progress on the stagehouse. Once it gets to the auditorium forget it.

LouRugani on February 27, 2021 at 10:51 am

Racine theater being demolished despite efforts to save it - Capitol Theater built in 1928 (Chernéy Amhara, Anchor/Reporter) After standing tall for more than 90 years, the Capitol Theater, as it was once called, is coming down in Racine.

The city ordered the demolition despite a local group’s efforts the past two years to save it.

The theater was built in 1928 and was renamed Park in 1981.

According to the city, there was more than $100,000 in unpaid property taxes on the theater, and the city said the past owner did not keep it up to date.

The group that has been fighting to keep it open wanted to buy and restore and repair the theater.

“And it could have been back to a public venue. Les Paul played here in 1930 when he was 14 years old. It is history,” said Judith Schulz, of Friends of the Capitol Theater. “This history belongs to everybody and when people love a building this much, and the history of it, elected officials should certainly listen to their constituents.”

The demolition will continue through next week.

WISN 12 News reached out to the city for comment on the protest and demolition but has not received a response.

©2021, Hearst Television Inc. on behalf of WISN-TV

LouRugani on March 1, 2021 at 11:04 pm

The battle is lost.

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