An iconic theater’s tragic past leads to its restoration to former glory.
An ornate display of the Art Deco era, this movie palace, originally know as the Fox-Watson Theatre, was built in 1931. Native Salinan W. W. Watson, a wealthy wholesale grocer and banker brought the vision to life, along with Architects, The Boller Brothers (Kansas City) and Charles Shaver (Salina). At its time of construction, it was considered one of the most beautiful theaters in the state of Kansas. The theatre’s box office had a multi-tiered tower that was over 75 feet tall. However, tragedy struck in the 1954, when lightening hit the tower, causing irreparable damage. The top 3 tiers of the tower were removed shortly after due to structural and safety concerns.
The theatre ran successfully up until 1987, when it was closed and moth-balled by the City of Salina. Years later, a group of supporters, donors and enthusiasts moved towards funding and overseeing a historic rehabilitation of the entire building interior so that the theatre could be used and enjoyed once again. The team at Jones Gillam Renz was selected as the Architects to help bring the theatre back to life in 2003, and now, almost 20 years later, they once again were asked to help restore a missing piece of the theatre’s history: its box office tower and spire.
Forward Looking Statement:
Despite the crushing financial blow experienced during the pandemic, the Stiefel has re-opened its doors and plays host to over 50+ performers, singers, bands, comedians and more every year. The theatre’s 1,200+ seats are full for nearly every show and it’s amazing repertoire consists of everything from the local Salina Symphony to big names like Earth, Wind and Fire and John Legend. The theatre continues to light up the sky every night and will be a vibrant cornerstone in Downtown Salina for years to come.