Wilson Theatre

earl corlessThe citizens of Rupert, Idaho, are betting their town's future on an old building.

When it was completed in 1920, the Wilson Theatre was a big hit. Silent movies, and later, talkies, made the theatre the center of activity. But then came television, and by the end of the 20th century, this triangle-shaped building had fallen into disrepair.

In 1998 the citizens of Rupert listed as their top priority the restoring of the Wilson building. "We have set a tentative date of April 2006, which is the Centennial of the founding of the city of Rupert," says Earl Corless, a member of the board of directors overseeing construction. "We would love to have it finished and opened by then."

wilson theatreBy January of 2005, the town folks had raised a million dollars. They need a million and a half more. But Chris Jackson, executive director of the Renaissance Art Center, thinks it will happen. "I have lived in several communities, and I have never found one that is so community-oriented. They do rally round!"

It would be easier to start from scratch. But no one is even suggesting that.

"It has to do with memories, with stability. As we grew up, the Wilson Building was here. It was part of our growing up, a part of our lives. All the memories are still here," says Jackson. "We are very quick at throwing things away. We have a history in the United States and we need to maintain that history."