In 2020, just three years from now, the Historic Wilson Theatre will celebrate its 100th Birthday.
The past century generated a wealth of history for this incredible performance center. Our focus is now fixed squarely on the future! The Historic Wilson Theatre is the centerpiece of our community and a place for friends and family to gather, make memories, and experience live cultural arts.
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 Historic Wilson Theatre has undergone a nearly complete restoration. A few notable projects remain, including replica seating, fly loft, carpeting, wainscoting, and exterior tile. With the support of the community and a devoted team of people, our aim is to be completely finished by 2020.
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. In the beginning it was a vaudeville theatre, but was soon showing movies with stars of the silent screen the likes of 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 tracks were then referred to). 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 the project.