West Texas holds many landmarks, distinctive features and unique small towns. Revitalization of small towns and West Texas is crucial to continuing the valuable impact small towns have on the region and will provide an invaluable experience for those living in and visiting these towns.
Revitalizing downtown areas takes time, effort and money—a lot of it. There is no small task when it comes to renovating and rejuvenating buildings and places that used to be the spotlight of these small towns. Through dedication and determination, the iconic Cactus Theater in Lubbock has undergone strenuous renovations and is now a fully-functioning live performance theater. The iconic Palace Theaters in Childress and Spur are on the same path. Though full renovations have not been completed quite yet, the theaters in Childress and Spur are looking to reopen and provide their communities a historic and unique service.
Thanks to committed local citizens, and those who have moved away, who care deeply about their hometowns, the revitalization of the theaters in Lubbock, Childress and Spur will create a sense of livelihood that has been missing from these towns for some time.
Cactus Theater—Lubbock, TX
The Cactus Theater has been a vital part of Lubbock’s community since it opened in April 1938 as the first suburban, neighborhood movie theater. The original building was constructed with a cost of around $30,000, featuring 720 seats and 750 feet of neon lighting on the marquee. The original Cactus Theater served as a movie house for 20 years. After the theater’s closing in 1958, it was stripped of its interior furnishings and equipment and served as a storage facility.
Lubbock music producer Don Caldwell purchased Cactus Theater in the fall of 1993, with a vision to provide a venue to cultivate, mentor and showcase West Texas performers. This vision helped plant the initial cornerstone for the development of the Lubbock Depot Entertainment District.
Renovations for the theater included redesigning the projection booth to hold spotlights, a state-of-the-art sound and light system, and updating the concession stand and the restrooms in the lobby. In addition, artist John Russell Thomasson painted the Caprock Canyon murals for an outdoor feel. The theater retained its balcony, sloped floor and stage.
The Cactus Theater officially re-opened in 1995 as a live performance theater. Caldwell sold the Cactus to Lubbock businessman and music promoter Darryl Holland and his wife, Stephanie in 2016. Over the years, Cactus attendees have enjoyed live music productions, theater plays and musicals. Visit cactustheater.com for upcoming shows and ticket sales.
Palace Theater—Childress, TX
The Palace Theater, located in downtown Childress, Texas, has been a prominent fixture on Main Street since it was built in 1926 by F.M. Phipps and G.S. Layton. The original structure was built for silent films but, unfortunately, a fire destroyed the interior of the Palace in January 1934, a short eight years after opening.
After the fire, the Palace was rebuilt with sound and seating for 900 at a cost of $15,000. It reopened on February 25, 1934. But history repeated itself, and a second fire completely destroyed the Palace only one year later.
The Palace Theater underwent reconstruction again and reopened for the third time in February 1937. The then owners, Mable Phipps, widow of F.M. Phipps, and G.R. Layton, son of G.S. Layton, specified the newly renovated theater would be designated to show first-run, major films. The Palace featured a state-of-the-art sound system, specially designed screen, cushioned seats, carpeted floors and a balcony.
Recently, the Palace Theater received a two-to-one matching grant from The Priddy Foundation of Wichita Falls and a $25,000 grant from the Amarillo Area Foundation. Money from these grants will be used to install new plumbing, electrical rewiring and upgrades throughout the building.
The Palace Theater was designated as a historic landmark by the Texas Historical Commission in 2006. It plans to reopen in the future.
Palace Theater—Spur, TX
The Palace Theater in Spur, Texas, has been a shining pearl of the small town since its grand opening in 1929. The theater was originally constructed with 300 seats and an orchestra pit to show silent movies. Over the years, wear and tear took a toll on the Palace Theater.
A partial cosmetic renovation took place in 1991. The Dickens County Historical Commission has since bought the Palace Theater with plans to repair and preserve the theater building to a degree of its original design.
Generous donations from Spur Exes have allowed the renovations that have happened thus far, including ADA compliant bathrooms and new plumbing, a new foyer, new gutter, roof and brick work, and restoring the iconic Palace Theater sign back to its original design and colors with flashing lights.
The next steps for revitalizing the Palace Theater and downtown Spur are to install projection equipment, including a projector, screen and surround sound audio. The Dickens County Historical Commission plans to show its first movie this summer. The Palace Theater will be opened Saturday afternoons to show children’s movies to engage with the younger generation.
The Palace Theater still has capabilities for stage shows, allowing local artists to showcase their talent. Per their mission, the Dickens County Historical Commission looks forward to providing a community service for the citizens once full renovations have been completed.