Daniel Ward and Mennie Wilson had a dream of building a beautiful and unique opera house in Rupert, Idaho and that dream turned into a reality in 1920.

1920s
1950s
Present Day

The Historic Wilson Theatre

Renaissance Arts Center

In 2020, in just six years from now, Rupert’s Wilson Theatre will celebrate its 100th Birthday.  This past century generated a wealth of history for this incredible performance center; from the architectural beauty originally crafted in 1920, to plays and performances throughout many decades of American history, to a movie theater in the fifties.  And after a period of forgotten time, closed doors and little attention, in January 2000, a complete renovation began to bring the theatre back to life, to its original splendor with construction occurring over the past ten years.  No detail has been spared in re-creating the original art and architecture from the 1920’s.  The end result is an amazing feat worth even a simply visit to absorb, let alone to enjoy performances.

The acoustic bones of this theatre are like no other. Directors and producers of events such as musical performances, plays, concerts, school assemblies, and such, will delight in its acoustic brilliance. The beauty of detail within the concert hall will itself captivate an audience. A great venue has been re-created for the community of Southern Idaho for all to enjoy from near and far.

Too, we offer ideal spaces for meetings, conventions, and art exhibits in an inviting setting.  Please contact us (link) for reservations for your event.

At the theatre’s inception in1920, Daniel Ward and Mennie Wilson dreamed of building a beautiful and unique opera house in Rupert, Idaho.  In 2014, Wilson is honored in the building’s name, The Historic Wilson Theatre and Renaissance Arts Center.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Thank you to many grants and generous private donors for the care and passion which have brought this amazing facility back to the community.    Although now functional, we are still putting in place final touches.  In you would like to donate, please contact us (link to Donation Page and Idahogives.org).

Our vision is to meet the needs and desires of our local people to provide quality cultural resources through arts, education, social and economic development.
Our goal is three fold: To bring together human resources for developing talents, learning new skills, and enriching the quality of life; to create a catalyst for revitalization of our community; and to continue the creative spirit of those who developed this region, established our city and created this facility, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

The Historic Wilson Theatre has undergone a restoration almost in entirety. Only a few items remain,, with the support of the community and the devoted team of people who work continually restoring all the elements of the theatre.

Mission and Vision Statement

Our mission is to complete the restoration and transformation of the Wilson Building & Theatre, and create an innovative multi-purpose Community Center.

Our vision is to meet the needs and desires of our local people to provide quality cultural resources through arts, education, social and economic development.

Our goal is three fold: To bring together human resources for developing talents, learning new skills, and enriching the quality of life; to create a catalyst for revitalization of our community; and to continue the creative spirit of those who developed this region, established our city and created this facility, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


 

The Wilson Building & Theatre was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 17, 2001.

It all began in 1920

Daniel Ward and Mennie Wilson had a dream of building a beautiful and unique opera house in Rupert, Idaho. That dream became a reality in 1920.
World War I was over, the soldiers were home, and it was a time of renaissance—not only for the country, but for the little town of Rupert, Idaho.

The Wilson Theatre opened on August 25, 1920. It was a vaudeville theatre at first, but was soon showing movies with stars of the silent screen such as Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. The theatre was also used for local plays and high school productions and soon began showing “talkies” as movies with sound were called then. The building was also used for conventions, community meetings, and church events. Even the clerk for the City of Rupert was housed in the Wilson until City Hall was built in 1939.

In 1997, a volunteer group of businessmen established a community development committee called the Rupert Renaissance Initiative (RRI). The Initiative was a three-year project to gather information from citizens about the future they wanted for Rupert. To achieve this goal, the RRI had three “Vision Fairs”. Through these events, it was discovered that the citizens wanted more arts, cultural opportunities, and diversification of the economy. That information led to the decision to purchase and renovate the Historic Wilson Building & Theatre and to create, in 2000, the Renaissance Arts Center, Inc., a non-profit organization.

A feasibility study by Myers/Anderson Architects of Pocatello determined that the building was in stable condition and had maintained much of its integrity since it was built in 1919-1920.

The Wilson Building & Theatre was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 17, 2001. The renovation and restoration has been funded by grants, donations and fundraisers. No local tax dollars have been used for this project.

 


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