A New Chapter for the Schoolhouse

The quaint building on Mainstreet that is the Schoolhouse Theater has always served as a reminder of the rich history of Parker. Originally opening its doors in 1915, it operated as a school for just over 50 years. A little over 20 years ago, the building was purchased by the Town of Parker for community use and it has been home to numerous cultural and recreational activities over that last two decades.

Predictably, with a building over a century old, there was a laundry list of improvements and updates that needed to be made. Now, after more than three years of work, the historic Schoolhouse on Mainstreet is open for business and welcomes residents and visitors through its doors to see the amazing transformation that has taken place.

This massive renovation was funded through state and historic grants as well as money contributed through the Town of Parker. This was not your run of the mill fixer-upper; a deliberate effort was made to match materials original to the building, including getting as good a match as possible on the century old brick (or making the best match look as much like it’s older counterpart as possible.) The intent was to keep the authenticity of the landmark building, while updating fire and safety features.

Some historic treasures remain, such as the original chalkboards in the classrooms and the still functional transom windows; while others got a bit of a facelift. One of the smaller classrooms will now serve as a parent lounge and bridal room and the original cafeteria has been transformed into a beautiful new dance studio. Other changes include the new elevators that were added for accessibility reasons.

Another wonderful addition to the Schoolhouse is the artist’s studio that is currently occupied by in-house artist Lorenzo Chavez. The goal for this space is to serve as a base and nurture an artist’s talent until their career really takes flight and then be home to another up and coming artist.

While renovations on the historic Schoolhouse have to follow specific guidelines to maintain its historic designation, the annex that was added on later does not and with that leverage comes some exciting changes. The annex now has a steampunk theme with design elements that include Edison lights and exposed beams. A larger, more open space has been created to house the concession and receiving areas and the theater itself has new seats and risers (allowing for a better sight line for those in attendance) and will hold an audience of 200. Dressing rooms for performers have also been added.

With $2 million in improvements to the theater and $1 million in improvements to the annex, the Schoolhouse Theater will now be home to theater and musical performances, dance classes, jazz nights and much more. The theater’s Friday Night Jazz and Comedy and Cocktails series have both proven to be huge successes, capitalizing on the intimate setting of The Schoolhouse Theater. With the new seats and renovated “steampunk” lobby, those programs are sure to grow in popularity. This spring, a chamber music series will be added on Sundays, featuring performers from DU’s Lamont School of Music, enhancing the classical offerings of the theater.Tickets to all performances at the Schoolhouse Theater are available through the PACE Center (parkerarts.org). The small theater is also a perfect venue for plays that are “for children by children”, and the theater’s partnerships with Classical Acts, Inspire Creative and Missoula Children’s Theater will ensure those continue. There will be plenty of time available on the calendar for local organizations to rent the theater for their own productions, bringing even more diversity to downtown Parker’s entertainment scene. Additionally, the Schoolhouse Theater is available for private event and special occasion rentals. The Schoolhouse Event Room is sure to be a popular venue for mid-sized receptions, parties, and other community events. Originally the school auditorium, this warm and inviting space will be perfect for sit-down dinners of 80 or less.

Volunteers from the Parker Area Historical Society will continue to manage the Parker Heritage Center and the Parker Artist Guild will again curate the lobby art gallery, further ensuring that the community will play an important role in activating the building.

The front doors of The Schoolhouse are finally open again, and they invite you to stop by anytime during regular business hours to see the amazing improvements for yourself!

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