The Columbian Theatre
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1917-1927 1989
1927-1951 1994
The Project: Saving The Columbian
For a few decades it was not unusual to occasionally hear a Wamego resident comment, "Someday we should restore The Columbian." Nonetheless, it was the unexpected event of the owner deciding it was time to sell the building that caused a few community leaders to launch a project to restore this venerable landmark.

Thirteen citizens formed a corporation to buy the building and determine if restoration was possible. Was the building sound? Would the community support it? At what cost? If renovated could the theatre play an important role in the community? If renovated could it produce sufficient income to pay for itself? These were the questions that were asked.

Marketing studies and a feasibility study were funded by small grants from Kansas Main Street and the Kansas Arts Commission. Technical assistance by both of these organizations was key in working through the unfamiliar territory of program development.

A non-profit organization was formed to own the building, the paintings, solicit donations and grants for restoration and to oversee the restoration and future operations. The Internal Revenue Service granted The Columbian Theatre Foundation 501(c)(3) status as a public non-profit corporation, making donations to the foundation eligible for tax deduction. One of the policy decisions made by the founding directors was that the Foundation would not seek or accept any direct tax dollars in support of the Foundation activities.


As the project unfolded, some changes had already occurred to The Columbian. Some time in the 1950s the dressing rooms above the stage had been removed because of storm damage. In 1983 the heavy projection room and balcony were removed along with the seats and front windows. That week The Wamego Times newspaper printed, "The cold touch of reality took the last of the magic from the Columbian's walls last week."

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