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History of the Park Theatre

The Historic Park Theatre is the oldest motion picture theatre in the United States.

Construction of the theatre was begun in 1913 by J.L. Jackson, and it was completed by C.H. Bond. Fred Jackson operated the theatre until 1922, when he sold it to Ralph Gwynn. In 1926, Gwynn added the landmark tower and lobby. This structure became known as the Tower of Love, because Gwynn built it to represent the beautiful love of his life. Gwynn operated the theatre until his death.

When Gwynn died in 1963, businessman Vic Walker bought the theatre from Gwynn's estate. Not knowing much about the theatre business, he enlisted the help of Gwynn's long time friend and associate, John Ramey, to keep the theatre running.

Ola & Mickey Stanger began operating the Park Theatre in 1968, when they did some significant renovations. They initially leased it from Vic Walker, and later purchased it from him in 1982. Mickey and Ola passed away in 2003 and 2005, respectively. Through the collaborative efforts of the Stanger descendants, the Park Theatre continues to operate seasonally as a family-owned business.

Mickey and Ola Stanger started out in the cinema business when they bought the Windsor Theatre (Windsor, Colorado) in 1946. In 1954, they moved to Denver to build the Evans Drive-In Theatre, which they operated (with their 2 children, Sharon and Andrew) as a family business for many years. And in 1964, they purchased the Lake Estes Drive-In Theatre in Estes Park, which was also family-operated.

The Park Theatre has survived a variety of hazards throughout the years, including wind, lightning, and flood damage. After the Lawn Lake flood of 1982, Estes Park passed a new sign code that banned all neon signs in Estes Park. The Stangers were able to restore the neon lights on the Park Theatre tower by getting a special variance (via a city ballot initiative).

The Park Theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. We gratefully welcome any and all donations to help preserve the on-going operation and restoration of this unique historic site.

We invite you to come visit us and enjoy a movie at this remarkable vintage theatre !


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