From the silent-movie era to a 21st-century renovation, the Historic Wilson Theatre of Rupert, Idaho, has witnessed nearly 100 years of history. After it opened in 1920, the theater became a central part of the community, hosting an array of events such as graduation ceremonies, stage productions, weddings, recitals and conferences. Its doors closed in the 1980s, and the building wouldn’t experience a revival until 2000, when it was acquired by the city of Rupert.
The restoration process started with the formation of the Renaissance Arts Center, a nonprofit created to operate the new facility. Thanks to the generosity of the community, the new vision for the theater slowly became a reality. Currently in its 17thyear of renovations, the Wilson Theatre remained open throughout the process. Even when the theater’s seating was removed for reconstruction purposes, a “bring-your-own seating” solution was developed, allowing the theater to continue.
Featuring a fully restored exterior, the Historic Wilson Theatre is fundraising for new seats to complete the interior. The two-story building features a three-arched open entry, a glass-and-brass staircase in the grand entry, individually cast plaster designs on the walls and ceiling, and stained-glass windows on the building’s east side. The largest space is the auditorium, with 2,573 square feet on its main level and 1,561 square feet on the balcony. The Convention and Event Center, which can be divided into three separate rooms, accommodates up to 140 guests for dinner seating and 200 auditorium-style. The smaller theater seats 445.