Fallon Theatre makes state register

The Fallon Theatre on south Maine Street has become the latest addition to the Nevada State Register of Historic Places.

The State Historic Preservation Office, established in 1979, said the register is a list of Nevada properties that reflects the history and traditions important to Nevadans, and encourages the conservation of these historic places for future generations.

“I think the main thing that helps is that it opens up some grant possibilities for us,” said Mike Berney, a board member for the nonprofit, Fallon Community Theater (FCT), that now owns the theater. “It opens up some other avenues for us and hopefully to do some more projects.

Designed by renowned Nevada architect Frederic J. DeLongchamps in 1920, the venue began as the Rex Theater, a vaudeville venue and the brainchild of Fallon entrepreneur J.W. Flood.

The talented DeLongchamps designed 30 buildings in Fallon alone including City Hall and the Oats Park Art Center, said Dr. Stuart Richardson, the former owner of the theater and now a board member as well.

Richardson and Berney said the additional grants could go toward much-needed projects such as repairing the roof, replacing the carpet and updating the seating.

Richardson explained how Nathan Strong, director of the Churchill Economic Development Authority, did the legwork for the classification. He added Strong coordinated the process, from figuring out how to qualify and the legal details to paperwork requirements, then the FCT made the official submission.

Richardson added it was a yearlong process but the response was positive throughout. He also noted state representatives visited the theater and said it would definitely comply with the requirements.

Upon its opening in December 1920, figureheads from around Nevada came to enjoy the theater’s first shows, the then single auditorium with a balcony initially seating 1,150 people.

Due to the demands for modern accommodations and technology, the theater underwent several changes throughout its nearly 100-year history. During the 1920s, a simple, Classical Revival façade greeted passersby on Maine Street.

In 1930, Flood renamed it and upgraded the venue to show talking pictures, or “movies,” modifying DeLongchamp’s design into a Mission Revival front — with a remodeled auditorium and no balcony, seating just over 500 guests in total.

Under new ownership, 1940s fires propelled a further set of changes, resulting in the Art Moderne front Fallon residents see today.

Another remodel in 1984 split the auditorium into two theaters to allow the venue to provide more diversity in showings. For nearly a century, the theater has stood as an icon of downtown Fallon and community entertainment.

The State Historic Preservation Office said the Fallon Theatre represents nearly a century of entertainment and business history in Fallon and Churchill County, and joins 155 other resources throughout Nevada listed in the register.

Today, the FCT owns and manages the theater. They have restored its state, rehabilitated the seating temporarily as well as worked on the marquee and roof. The FCT also shows movies, screens special events as well as hosts a community theater group and comedy event.

Richardson said the theater-sustaining membership is at 25 percent of what’s needed — “400 saves,” he said and explained anyone can donate any amount. Visit www.FallonTheatre.com to donate or sign up for membership, and visit www.FallonTheatres.com to receive the theater’s newsletter.

“It’s a very slow, gradual process,” Richardson said. “We just have to look at what our niche is and promote that. Hopefully, we continue to receive support, and we can afford to keep the doors open.”

For more information about the FCT’s efforts, visit the Fallon Theatre website or find them on Facebook.

Property owners with questions about how to list their property on the state register are encouraged to contact the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office; for a resource to be eligible, the office said it should be at least 50 years of age and tell a story important to Nevada history and retain physical evidence of that story.

The Nevada State Historic Preservation Office contributed to this story.


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