The historic Great Plains Theatre is set to be demolished following the fire that destroyed the building in July on Tuesday, Nov. 18th.
The building, constructed in 1881, was a historic Abilene landmark. Built as the First Presbyterian Church, it served the Community as a place of worship prior to becoming a professional live theatre in 1994. Great Plains Theatre merged its professional live theatre with a cinema and became Abilene’s only movie theater in 2010. From its beautiful oak spiral staircase to its oak octagonal ceiling in Dieter Hall, the theater’s concert hall, the building was used for many functions; live theatre, live concerts, weddings, receptions, and dances all adding joy and value to our community. Following the fire, the theatre staff heard from the community expressing sympathy and retelling memories associated with the building and what it had meant to them.
Due to the intensity of the fire, engineers determined the building had lost its structural functionality. The extreme heat caused intense damage to the limestone blocks rendering them incapable of being used to rebuild, creating the need to completely remove the partially standing structure.
The demolition is set to begin November 18th, with the demolition company attempting to preserve the original cornerstone, along with the historic plaque of the theatre’s incorporation. On November 21st from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 22nd from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., Great Plains Theatre patrons and friends will be able to purchase by donation, two limestone bricks per family. The limestone bricks will available for pick-up at the empty parking lot south of Astra Bank on the corner of NW Third Street and Mulberry in Abilene.
Though the historical building that housed the Great Plains Theatre was a tremendous loss, Great Plains Theatre is still producing live professional theatre. Deemed “Kansas’ Premier Professional Theatre” by the state of Kansas, Great Plains Theatre will announce its 21st Season and future plans at the Abilene Civic Center on Nov. 22nd.
The 2015 Season Announcement “Unveiling the Future” will begin at 6:00 p.m. the evening of Nov. 22nd and ticket prices are $20 each. Tickets are on sale now and are available at the theatre office, 311 NW Third Street, or by phone at 785.263.4574.
The final show of Great Plains Theatre’s 20th Season will be Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and will be performed at the Chapman High School. Tickets for this show are available at the office, by phone or online at www.greatplainstheatre.com.