Rare Opportunity: Historic Sedalia Theater Up For Auction
Sedalia's historic Uptown Theatre is currently up for auction according to a post on the Big Iron Realty website. "Don't miss your opportunity to own a beautiful piece of Historic Downtown Sedalia," says the Big Iron pitch to bidders. Owning this piece of history seems like it could be very cool, whether it's viable, at least as a theater remains to be seen.
The Uptown Sedalia website details the history of the theater through news clippings. In 1905, the building was a cigar store called The Smoke House. The store, owned by The Smoke House Cigar Company promised to not only be THE place to buy tobacco products but the most elaborate and thoroughly stocked smoker's retreat in Missouri. In the early 1930s, the company added billiards and bowling to The Smoke House.
In 1934 Mr. Joseph Goshen bought the building. He operated the Star Theater in Sedalia, as well as theaters in Versailles and Tipton. While he didn't have firm plans for the building when he purchased it, he did plan to put a theater there.
In 1972 Kansas City-based Commonwealth Amusements refurbished and reopened the theater. At that time, Commonwealth owned Sedalia's two other theaters and the newspaper article said Commonwealth was planning to refurbish the Fox Theater too.
More recently, in 2014, French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre toured the theater and took pictures for a book featuring pictures of abandoned theaters. The book, called "Movie Theaters" was published in 2021.
It was around this time preservation efforts, fundraising, and restoration of the building seemed to pick up steam, yet, those efforts seem to have petered out by 2018. It doesn't look like either the Uptown Sedalia website or Facebook page has been updated since then.
That's where my concern comes in. The thought of owning a historic theater looks and sounds like fun. Yet, restoring it. Then programming it for the benefit of the community can be a challenge. When I lived in Lafayette, Indiana I knew a couple who tried to do that with a historic local theater.
Despite their best efforts, they ended up selling it to investors who thought they could better run it. They made a valiant effort trying to bring shows and concerts in, yet in the end, it wound up being owned by the City of Lafayette. These days it's mostly used as a wedding venue, with most of the concerts and theater events being held at the other historic theater Lafayette owns.
That makes me wonder if Sedalia could support another theater or venue downtown. There's already the Fox Theater and Event Center, which seems to hang its hat on weddings, corporate events, and other business functions. The Liberty Center for the Performing Arts has done a nice job of creating a venue for the arts including plays, concerts, and art exhibitions in their historic theater.
So would the Uptown work as a concert venue or theater in the traditional sense? My heart would love to say yes. My mind, not so much. Big Iron's pitch for the building calls it a blank slate and asks potential bidders to look at the investment opportunity of the building. Some of their suggestions include a concert venue, a church, a deli, a coffee shop, or an event center.
As of Tuesday night, May 16, 2023, the bid for the building sits at $2500. For complete information on bidding on the property, you can check out Big Iron's information regarding the auction, or contact listing agents Arlyn Swartzentruber 660-287-2079 or Rocky Marquess 660-553-8844. Bidding ends at 1:00 PM on Thursday, May 18, 2023. Bidders need to register with Big Iron Realty 24 hours before bidding on the property ends.
Check out this pitch video from Big Iron Realty and Sedalia Flyt Aeriel Photography: