This undated post card image looks north on Main Street in Fond du Lac,
Wis., with the Retlaw Theater on the right. The Retlaw Hotel--built by
Walter Schroeder, the same real estate developer who built the
theater--can be seen further up the street, and the vertical sign of
the Fond du Lac Theater is visible about a half-block north of the
hotel. Both theaters opened in the latter part of 1925 and were about a
city block apart. The buildings remain standing in 2013, but the
auditorium of the Fond du Lac theater has been demolished, leaving only
the lobby structure, retail space, and apartments still standing. Both
theaters' vertical signs were removed before the 1950s.
was designed by Rapp & Rapp of Chicago (the firm also
designed other theaters located in the Wisconsin cities of Milwaukee,
Madison, Racine and Baraboo) and construction was completed by the Immel Construction Co. of Fond
du Lac in December, 1925. The theater opened to the public Dec. 26,
1925, and closed as a movie house in 1998. The building was sold in
2000 and reopened for a time as the Bravo Performing Arts Center. The
property was sold again and the possibility of a restoration project
was mentioned at that time. In 2012, the property was listed for sale.
A local developer acquired an option to purchase the property and
proposed a boutique hotel project for the
site. The plan was later revised and currently involves an
apartment and office project.
A group of local citizens formed "Friends of the Retlaw
Theatre" to halt the developer's planned demolition of the auditorium,
and their website is SaveTheRetlaw.com. They also
have a Facebook page and a fund-raising website.
Development finalized their purchase of the property in August, 2014,
and began partial demolition of the theater structure Sept. 2, 2014.
While the lobby facade and the retail and office portions of the
building will remain standing, the original 1925 auditorium, the
stage, and two additional theaters added in the 1980s will be
Link to video coverage of the first day of
the Retlaw Theater site (Theater Five was added in the 1980s and is not
part of the original Rapp & Rapp-designed building). 9/2/2014
Link to second day video coverage.
Walls of Theater Five start to come down. 9/3/2014
Sept. 3, 2014