'Hollywood in the Heartland' yields first National Register listing

Saturday, April 7, 2012
Sioux Theatre, constructed in the 1940s, was approved for the National Register of Historic Places. (Photos submitted)

NPS approves Sioux Rapids theater nomination

The National Park Service has approved a Sioux Rapids theater for the National Register of Historic Places, making it the first property documented in a Department of Cultural Affairs research project to earn the designation.

The Sioux Theatre of Sioux Rapids, was constructed in 1946 and played an important role as an entertainment venue and in the resumption of commercial development in Sioux Rapids following the Great Depression and World War II. With seating for 404 patrons, the Sioux Theatre featured the latest amenities including floor sloping for maximum visibility from each seat, sound-dampening features, and comfortable seats with ample leg room.

The theater was owned and operated from 1946 to around 1960 by Don and Edna (Collins Rector) Gran, who also lived in the building's large, second-floor residential apartment. The theater closed in 1976.

The Sioux Rapids Area Historical Society took ownership in 1985 and continues to care for the building, which now serves as a museum.

The theater was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places last fall after being included in "Hollywood in the Heartland," a multi-phase, multi-year research project DCA's State Historic Preservation Office is conducting in partnership with Preservation Iowa, Main Street Iowa and the Iowa Tourism Office.

The project focuses on the historical and architectural significance of movie theaters in Iowa from the days of the nickelodeons in the late 1890s to the decline of drive-in theaters and the spread of multiplexes in the mid-1970s. It is also accepting information about Iowa-related movies and Iowans who have been involved in the movie industry.

To date, the project has generated more than 200 entries and contains a typology of Iowa movie theater properties based on survey findings and a list of theaters determined eligible for listing on the National Register.

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