DENVER (KDVR) – Sitting on the northern border of what is today referred to as Denver’s West Highland neighborhood is a longstanding piece of history that delivered turn of the 20th century Denverites vaudevillian, operatic, theatrical and musical performances.

As one can imagine, the structure that History Colorado said was built by John and Mary Elitch back in 1891, has undergone several restorative efforts in its extended history, some of which are still uncompleted.

However, that is about to change as the theatre’s unfinished exterior restoration project, which the theatre’s keepers have been unable to finance the completion of, just received a $70,000 grant infusion from a group that is pushing to keep the country’s historical markers intact for generations to come.

Breathing life back into ‘Heartbeats of the Community’

According to the Board of Directors at the Historic Elitch Theatre, the 131-year-old performance venue they oversee has been chosen as one of those heartbeats that are now set to receive some loving care.

On June 23, Lowe’s Hometowns revealed that it will be awarding the Historic Elitch Board a sizeable grant as part of their 5-year effort that aims to help complete 100 nominated projects across 40 states to restore “heartbeats of the community.”

“We’re excited to continue improving hometowns across the country by building on our longstanding commitment to serving the communities where we live and work,” Lowe’s chairman and CEO said Marvin Ellison said.

Elitch Gardens Theatre (Credit: Historic Elitch Theatre)

The Elitch Theatre has been selected due to its undeniable role in Denver’s performing arts history. According to History Colorado, in 1896, the theatre was the first to ever hold a screen-projected motion picture showing in the city.

According to the board at the Historic Elitch Theatre, in 1954, the 60-foot-high Fly Building add-on to the western edge of Elitch Garden’s main park was paid for by Helen Bonfils, a longtime producer, actor and show financier. This addition was made so that larger performances could call the theatre their temporary homes.

When the park was relocated in the 1990s, the building was exposed as the surrounding structures were removed, which some deemed an eyesore.

“For many years the number one Google search that led people to our website was ‘abandoned buildings,’ so we’re excited to get the building painted so it no longer looks abandoned and it isn’t such a blemish for such a beautiful neighborhood,” Board President Greg Rowley said of the theatre ahead of the main theatre’s repainting.

Since its official closure in 1987, it’s been maintained for historical purposes, undergoing a roof repair in 2015. History Colorado said that the flat roof of the structure had developed a leak that was dripping around the stage. They repaired the leak to make sure the historic set pieces, equipment and the wood that the stage was built from went undamaged.

Back here in present-day Denver, the board aims to begin the restoration project by the end of the summer. So be sure to drive by and give it one last look before its makeover is complete.

Two other “heartbeats” receiving grants in the Centennial State:

  • American Legion Post 151-John Custy Post
    • Commerce City
    • This “Veterans Corner” has a parking lot and a few trees planted in honor of Post 151 veterans.
    • Project managers will be redeveloping the memorial.
  • Colorado Village Collaborative
    • Denver
    • The Colorado Village is planning to develop a community garden that will bring previously unavailable access to their Elyria-Swansea neighbors. Classes on gardening, healthy living and will be offered in the garden.