By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Dec 03, 2020 at 10:31 AM

Good and bad news for the former Capitol Theater, 3017 Washington Ave. in Racine.

On Tuesday, the City of Racine bestowed landmark status on the theater, designed by architects Dick and Bauer –  who designed Milwaukee’s Oriental, Tower and Garfield Theaters, too – and built in 1928 (the year after the Oriental opened).

However, there is still a raze order in effect for the property, which means it could be torn down, depriving Racine of another vintage movie house.

A website has been created to raise awareness and funds to help preserve the theater.

The theater was built as a cinema and Vaudeville venue and was twinned in 1976, when much of the interior plasterwork was covered over and the Wurlitzer organ removed.

In 1981, it was purchased by Marcus Cinemas and renamed the Park, due to its location across the street from Washington Park. It closed six years later.

“The Capitol Theater was opened May 30, 1928 as a neighorhood vaudeville and movie theatre the interior was beautifully finished with ornate plasterwork and stencilling,” according to Cinema Treasures (from which we share the photo below).

“A large indirectly light oval covers three quarters of the auditorium ceiling. The proscenium is decorated with plaster ropes flowers and twists. Two pipe chambers complete with false boxes are located on either side of the stage. At one time the theater boasted a 2/8 Wurlitzer pipe organ. ... it has since been allow to suffer much decay and water damage.”

According to the website, funds raised will help with much-needed exterior work to keep the building watertight.

“If we can gather enough pledges for immediate repairs to the roof and tuckpointing ($110,000) maybe we can convince the city to pause the raze order,” reads the site.

You can make a pledge here. If the goal is not reached, your pledge will not be collected.

“The Capitol is a part of Racine’s history,” the site notes, “with silent movies, talkies, vaudeville, newsreels, festivals, contests, radio broadcasts, comedy, performances and many memories.”

You can read more background on the current state of the theater in this article and this one.

Thanks to Judith Schulz and the Capitol Theater Friends for these interior photos:

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.