Roosevelt Theater

2910 Roosevelt Road,
Kenosha, WI 53143

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Additional Info

Architects: Charles O. Augustine, Einar Dahl

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ROOSEVELT Theatre; Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The Roosevelt Theater was opened December 25, 1927. It was closed as a movie theater in mid-March 1985. Most recently, the Roosevelt Theater was a teen music club and a storefront.

The Roosevelt Theater was demolished in early-October 2008.

Contributed by Pete Christy

Recent comments (view all 53 comments)

kencmcintyre on March 3, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Here is a slightly crumpled newspaper ad from 1977:

LouisRugani on August 6, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Racine Journal-Times, February 8, 1943)
Mrs. Grace Adele Exton, 41, wife of J. William Exton, manager of the Roosevelt theater, died Saturday at the Kenosha hospital following a short illness. She was born in Niles, Ohio, Dec 16, 1901.

LouisRugani on November 12, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Elmer George Hayek, 84, of Springfield, formerly of Kenosha, WI, passed away at 5:00 p.m., November 5, 2001 at his residence. He was born June 23, 1917 in Detroit, MI the son of George and Mary Exton Hayek. He married Alice Louise Reis in Lake Geneva, WI on August 30, 1938 and she preceded him in death in 1995. He moved to Kenosha at age 16 to work for his uncle, William “Bill” Exton at the Roosevelt Theater. Later in life, he was a motion picture operator at the Kenosha, Orpheum, Roosevelt, Gateway, and Keno theaters. He then worked as a linotype operator and foreman of the composing room at Lloyd Hollister Printing and Pioneer Press in Wilmette, IL. Mr. Hayek lived in Kenosha, WI from 1950 until 1999 when he moved to Springfield, IL. Mr. Hayek was a member of Bristol Oaks Country Club, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and was a volunteer for the Kenosha Memorial Hospital. He had also served his country in the U.S. Army during World War II. He enjoyed playing golf and was devoted to his family. He was also preceded in death by his parents, and a brother: Albert. He is survived by a daughter: Susan (husband, Michael) Shaw of Springfield; a sister: Evelyn Willard of Mena, AR; a grandson: Scot Shaw of Cambridge, MA; and a nephew: George Hayek of El Dorado Hills, CA. Remains were cremated and Private Memorial Services will be observed at a later date. Memorial contributions may be made to the Adams Wildlife Sanctuary, 2315 Clearlake Ave., Springfield, IL 62703. The family of Elmer George Hayek is being served by Kirlin-Egan and Butler Funeral Home and Cremation Tribute Center, 900 S. 6th St., Springfield, IL.

LouisRugani on February 22, 2011 at 3:21 pm

(February 22, 1946)
Kenosha Has $100,000 Blaze

KENOSHA (UP) â€" Kenosha firemen battled a blaze Thursday which destroyed three store buildings and six apartments and which caused damage estimated in excess of $100,000. No one was injured.

Destroyed were the Roosevelt Drug Store, the Kroger Food Store, the Melli Candy Shop and six apartments located on the second floor.

The buildings all were located in the Roosevelt theatre block. The first alarm was sent in when smoke began seeping through registers from a hot air furnace in the theater. The theater crowd was dismissed and apartment dwellers had time to pack a few personal belongings before escaping.
All available fire equipment and firemen were called out to fight
the fire, the exact cause of which was undetermined.

Nicholas Vargelis
Nicholas Vargelis on September 19, 2013 at 8:53 am

interior during demolition:

LouRugani on October 28, 2015 at 10:06 pm

The ROOSEVELT Theatre was built as a portion of a larger business block erected by Einar Dahl. Original plans indicate that the overall building design was drawn by August Wolff of the Milwaukee firm of Wolff & Ramsthal. Revisions to the theater proper were noted as having been done by Kenosha architect Charles O. Augustine. The theater opened to the public on Christmas Day, 1927. The last movie was shown in mid=March, 1985 and the building was vacant since 1997.

Bibliographic References: Kenosha City Directory; tax assessors records; “New Roosevelt Theater Is a Monument to Einar Dahl,” Kenosha Evening News, 24 December 1927, 22/1; “No Plans to Reopen Roosevelt,” Kenosha News, 14 March 1985. “Architecture/History Survey.” WHS project number 03-1016/KN. October 2003. Heritage Research, Ltd.

LouRugani on January 5, 2018 at 2:31 pm

Kenosha closes the curtain on historic theater (DAILY REPORTER, August 11, 2008)

Kenosha is tearing down one of its historic movie houses over the objections of the building’s owners. Kathryn Hanneman and John Gee, owners of the Roosevelt Theatre since 2000, pleaded with city officials to spare the building. They want to turn the movie house into a studio for shooting commercials and television pilots. But after eight years, they’ve made no progress. Worse, say city officials, the owners let the building deteriorate to a condition beyond repair. “It’s a building that is in a serious state if disrepair,” said Jim Schultz, Kenosha’s director of Neighborhood Services and Inspections. “It’s a public nuisance and a public safety issue.” But Hanneman said the city is rushing to destroy a historic property. She claims the building is made of concrete and steel girders thicker than skyscrapers, and could easily stand for years to come. “I think it speaks to their lack of vision,” Hanneman said. “Projects like this are done all of the time. They really don’t have any reason to bring it down.” The single-screen Roosevelt Theatre, the longest continuously screening theater in Kenosha, opened Christmas Day in 1927 and showed movies for 55 years. It was designed by architect Einar Dahl and revised by architect Charles Augustine. Capacity was originally 1,000 seats but was reduced to 764 seats in the 1970s. Along with the movie theater, there was a bowling alley in the basement. The interior of the building is all but gone, Schultz said. The bowling alley was removed years ago, and the original organ was dismantled in the 1950s to make room for air conditioning. The Kenosha City Council voted 14-1 on Aug. 4 to raze the building. The council approved a $37,000 contract with Champion Environmental Services Inc., Gilberts, Ill., to remove asbestos from the theater before demolition. Asbestos removal is scheduled to being in two weeks. Demolition would begin in six weeks. Hanneman and Gee owe $150,000 in liens and back taxes on the property. They said they do not have the money to make even basic repairs to the theater. They were working with an anonymous donor to receive $500,000 for the theater, but the money was tied up in estate proceedings, Hanneman said. Gee, an entertainment promoter from Milwaukee, said Kenosha overestimated how much it would cost to “button up” the building until money is found for restoration. His plan was to either fix the exterior and sell the theater to a developer or create a recording and television studio. But that plan received little support from city officials, said Gee, noting that public money was available to help the Kenosha Theatre and the Rhode Opera House in the city’s downtown. When he asked for city support for the Roosevelt Theatre, he was turned away. “We wanted a property that supports itself, not one that’s supported by the city,” he said, adding that, in retrospect, he and Hanneman didn’t have the experience needed to complete the project. “That was the weakness in our plan. We didn’t have a real estate professional in our group.” Schultz said the city does not support tearing down historic buildings. But in the case of the Roosevelt Theatre, he said, restoration would cost more than $1 million. “Really there’s no choice in the matter,” he said. “The owner doesn’t have the resources to make the minimum necessary repairs.” The 12,500 square-foot theater is in central Kenosha about a mile from the city’s downtown, which includes two historic theaters, one in use and the other undergoing a $24 million restoration. The Roosevelt has not been used as a theater for more than 20 years. There are no plans to redevelop the site, Schultz said.

LouRugani on July 25, 2018 at 2:14 pm

(Kenosha News, April 12, 1968) Bill Exton retiring —— Bill Exton, 2910 Roosevelt Rd., announced today that he will retire at the close of business on Thursday, April 18. The theater will be taken over by Theodore F. Witheril of Racine, who will serve as president of the Roosevelt Theater of Kenosha, Inc. Witheril, 31, has operated the Capitol Theater in Racine since Feb. 1, 1965. He was elected the Racine County coroner in 1966 and formerly served as news director of Radio Station WRAC in Racine. Witheril said that “no major changes of any kind" were planned at the theater and that Exton will serve as a consultant for at least a year. Ken Pias, Racine, vice president and secretary of the corporation, will serve as the theater manager.

LouRugani on July 25, 2018 at 2:37 pm

(Kenosha News, April 12, 1968) – Kenosha’s Mr. Showman, Bill Exton, will ring down the curtain next Thursday on his 29-year role as owner and manager of the Roosevelt Theater. Exton, whose career in the entertainment industry spans more than four decades, has long endeared himself to Kenoshans by his activities on behalf of youngsters and adults alike at his theater, the Roosevelt Rd. Businessmen’s Association and in other civic activities. At the close of business on Thursday, he will turn over the keys and operation of the theater to Theodore F. Witheril of Racine. “I am not going to retire entirely,“ said Exton. “I’m just not built that way. I will try to get away for two or three weeks, though, just to get my feet on the ground.” Operation of the theater has been a day-and-night job for Exton, who took over the Roosevelt in 1939. Prior to that, he had managed the Kenosha Theater, now closed, and the old Gateway Theater, now known as the Lake, for about 4 years. Exton’s fascination for the entertainment business became apparent at an early age. During his high school years in his native Detroit, Mich., he got his first job as a theater usher and from then on worked at just about anything they would pay him for. WORKED AT CIRCUS – By graduation, it was and one time a monkey ran up apparent to his father and moth- through the audience, er that they had a showman for Life Not Dull “Life wasn’t dull by a long shot,” he remarked. Exton’s career included a stint with Paramount Pictures, who hired him to do promotional work. Part of his job was to escort Paramount stars on personal appearance tours and whip up occasional live variety acts such as those used between reels in the movie houses at that time. After graduation, Exton went to work for a circus as a “pot-walloper,” scrubbing pots and pans and cleaning up around the kitchen. He knew by the end of the season that he would never be able to “shake the sawdust out of his trouser cuffs.” During the winter months, he wolfed in the movie houses, worked part time for the Detroit Free Press and tried his hand at public relations. Then, as now. he liked people and was good at selling his product when the product was entertainment. Summertime meant a return to the circus, and his bulging scrap book attests to his many experiences during his career with the tents. In 1921, Ringling Brothers asked Exton to head their publicity department and he “went into orbit.” The work was hard but never dull, he recalled. There were exciting and dangerous incidents such as the time when an elephant went berserk and knocked over a cage of panthers, scattering the wild cargo over the grounds. Although the panthers were recaptured without incident, the elephant killed its trainer before it was killed itself. On another occasion, a lion got loose inside a sideshow tent, In 1934, as district manager for Standard Theaters, Exton was sent to Kenosha to open the Gateway Theater, and he remained to become one of the most distinguished and well-loved citizens of the city. One of his best known projects is the annual Halloween Parade which he organized about 14 years ago. He recalled that about 200 youngsters took part that first year, but the number has grown to more than 1,400 costumed children who now compete for the coveted Halloween prizes. Exton was instrumental in the formation of the Roosevelt Rd. Businessmen’s Association about 15 years ago and twice served as its president. He is also active in the Lions and Elks Club. He resides at 6521 43rd Ave. TESTIMONIAL DINNER – In 1963, Exton was feted at a testimonial dinner sponsored by the Roosevelt Rd. Businessmen’s Association. Several hundred Kenoshans joined in honoring him for his contributions to the community, and a three hour program was presented in commemoration of his 40 years of service in the entertainment industry. In addition, Exton was named the Showman of the Year in 1964 at a convention of the Allied Theater Owners of Wisconsin held in Milwaukee. He was selected from more than 50 others under consideration for “making his theater a focal point of community campaigning and creating civic good will.” Through the years, Exton has followed a policy of selecting films for his theater which he considered “suitable for the family.” “I never wanted to get off the trend of decent, clean entertainment,” he remarked. Movies are getting better, Exton believes. There may have been a slow-down with the advent of television, but in the movies as well as in his own plans for the future, there are great things in store.

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