Opened in 1926, the Gillioz Theatre was the largest and grandest movie palace in Southwest Missouri. Designed with a Spanish theme with Mediterranean, Italian, and Moroccan influences, the theater was constructed by M.E. Gillioz for approximately $300,000 (that’s more than $4.1 million in 2017). On October 11th, 1926, opening night, the main feature was the film, “Take it From Me.” Tickets were sold out immediately and the theater filled to capacity! Besides film, the Gillioz offered vaudeville and theater productions. The theater, situated along Route 66, brought in thousands of visitors over the years.
Sadly, in the 1960’s, the theater began to founder, and closed its doors in the 70’s as businesses shifted to south Springfield. The building was completely abandoned. Dead birds, used needles and broken bottles littered the floor. Chair cushions were piled up, used as beds for homeless individuals taking refuge.
In the early 1990’s a group of citizens who were passionate about preservation rallied around the Gillioz. The group formed the Springfield Landmarks Preservation Trust with the idea of acquiring threatened buildings and holding them until redevelopment could occur. Realizing they were going to have to redevelop the theater themselves, Butler, Rosenbury & Partners was selected to be the architect for conversion of the abandoned movie palace into a community performance venue.
When working with historic projects, the challenges of combining the old with the new is ever present. To update the theater, BR&P had to insert modern technology and conveniences into the historic environment. The challenge was to avoid leaving a mark, and instead bringing the best out of what was already there.
Working with expert consultants, Butler, Rosenbury & Partners designed modern performance systems for the multi-purpose theater and assembly hall. At the same time, BR&P worked with artists, craftsmen and engineers to integrate new HVAC, lighting and power into the restored decor for a successful transformation.
BR&P architect Tim Rosenbury, who worked on the Gillioz, claims it’s one of his favorite projects of all time. “For us, it’s a once in a lifetime project. Very few of these movie palaces remain, and the cities that have them are fortunate to have them as a resource,” Tim says. “These are projects where architecture matters enormously. The idea of taking something that has been abandoned, neglected, left for ruin and restoring it back to life is extremely gratifying.”
Have a project that needs to be revitalized? Give us a call at 417-865-6100 or visit www.brpae.com for more information.
Also in the April Newsletter: