When the Ritz Theater was built in 1912, there was a single lobby that still exists today except for a doorway in the east wall just three feet inside the front doors. This door led to the office or business space next door to the east. Across the room there remains an original doorway in the same proximity to the front entrance that accesses the stairwell leading to the second floor. Through this doorway was another on the other side of the stairs that led into the business space next door to the west.
Today there is no certainty as to what sort of businesses occupied these spaces in the beginning but there are photographs taken in the early 1930's of a small cafe in the space just to the west of the lobby. Dr. Joe Bloomer had an office in the west end space around the same time. Until recently, the storefront spaces were not annexed and each 30 x 12 space had a different business in residence. The two office spaces on the east side of the Ritz building east are thought to have been annexed in the 1960's when an established abstract company needed more space. The west side spaces were joined in the mid 1990's to accommodate the current tenant.
The 2003 renovation of the Ritz included the entire Mission facade and the four storefronts as well as the 1946 Art Deco marquee and theater entrance. For the sake of historic preservation, there still appears to be four storefronts from the outside. All of the doors still operate and are still used to varying degrees. The west side tenant space is still leased as a business space but the east offices had to be vacated to accommodate the construction of our new service lobby, cinema office and restrooms. The Parke Players board of directors and the architects of the Jacobs Pannicke firm unanimously agreed to keep as much of the lobby's Art Deco treatment from the last remodeling project in the 1930's as possible. Primarily to preserve the decades old memories of many of Parke County's residents. Several of us were very much aware how mysterious theaters such as the Ritz were to children throughout the years and that our theater was one of the least changed public buildings in town.
The 1930's project removed the fore mentioned doors to the storefront spaces and resurfaced the lobby walls with a stucco finish that was not only popular at the time, it was also a simple way to cover over troubled plaster walls in the original lobby. A second "inner" lobby was created just through the doors that opened from the lobby directly into the auditorium. Little more than a facade, the structure was made out of simple 2x4's and Masonite with the stucco motif continuing from the main lobby on the inside and simple painting on the auditorium side. There are four detailed faux stone archways leading into the auditorium that remain today exactly as they were when they were created. The auditorium side had a convincing stone wall painted on it and three dimensional medieval turrets and battlements had been constructed along the top of the structure. All part of the popular decor of the era and designed to further add to the mystique of the 1930's cinema experience. The top of the structure had no floor since it was not designed to support any weight other than that of the vaulted plaster ceiling of the new lobby below.
After the building was purchased by the Rockville Chamber Of Commerce in 1969, an opening from the second floor was created that lead to the top of the inner lobby structure. Despite the fact that no one ever saw any cats at the theater, a cat walk was laid down leading to a "crow's nest" where a single follow spot light was perched. Not ideal but it worked for several years. No one ever had ever seen any crows in the building for that matter. After Parke Players was formed in 1971, the entire structure was floored to support the theatrical lighting control system and an additional follow spot. By that time the medieval facade components had deteriorated and were removed. The stone wall remained until the fading images were repainted during a 1993 spruce up. The four arches remain exactly as they were through the years with only a minor amount of touch up repair.
Ritz Theater Restoration
Newly remodeled Ritz lobby in 1938. The photos immediately following show the 1938 Art Deco treatment as it looked just weeks before the 2003 renovation began.
East wall of the outer lobby with Art Deco border cases that originally supported lobby cards. The counters from the existing concession are in the foreground. The two frames on the left will remain and frame in the two entranceways to the new service lobby. The one on the right will frame the new cinema ticket window.
Looking toward the back wall of the west room of the office space vacated for the construction of the new concession area and restrooms. To the left of the map will be the doorways leading from the original lobby of the theater.
What a difference a week makes. This is the same view as above taken a week later.
A few days later as the entrances to the restrooms take shape. The men's room on the left and the women's room on the right.
The same view two weeks later as the service lobby area takes shape.
Overview from atop the men's room looking into the future concession area. The outline of the original door from the theater lobby can be seen on the right. It will be reopened as the ticket window in a few weeks.
Doorway covered over during the 1930's remodeling. The additional openings to the theater lobby will be four feet to the right.
New cinema office space just off of the concession area.
Contractor Gordon Manion starts creating the run for the new forced air heating and air conditioning for the lobbies.
The original tin ceiling in the service lobby seen in the 4th and 5th photos above. Here the new metallic copper paint is being applied.
Completed service lobby ceiling with new lighting fixtures and newly created openings into the main theater lobby.
Cinema Ticket Window Doors To Outer Lobby
Finished outer lobby and new front entrance doors. The search continues for the original Art Deco doors from the 1930's.
Finished outer lobby view from the front entrance looking into the inner lobby. The ticket booth from the 1930's remodel is seen here on the left.
The inner lobby underwent very little renovation. Just the carpeting was replaced and the walls and trim were painted.
Finished concession area. The cinema ticket window is on the right. The window was created from the original door from the lobby to the east tenant space seen in the photo on the left.
Finished cinema ticket window inside Art Deco framing from the 1930's remodel .
Finished west wall with the ticket booth built during the
Completed west wall frame with production photos.
The completed new cinema office space.
The storage area in the new office.
The completed concession service area.
The same view at the end of the project.
The same area as that on the right.
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