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This historic building has seen grand times and hopeless times: floods, fires, different owners, and abandonment. Nothing stopped the Pawhuskans from an all-out effort to restore the Constantine Theatre. Some say this historic structure was initially built in the 1880s as the Pawhuska House Hotel. Different resources say it was built in 1894 or 1895. Either way, it was a shaped sandstone building, one of the first three permanent buildings in downtown Pawhuska.
Charles A. Constantine was a Greek entrepreneur from Constantinople who was lured to Pawhuska in 1911 when the oil boom started. His two daughters, Antigone and Sappho, came with him. Mr. Constantine opened a small bakery and confectionery in Pawhuska. He then purchased the Pawhuska House Hotel when it was up for sale after a fire. At the same time he bought the hotel to turn it into a theatre, he also had a house custom made in Pawhuska (which is still there.)
Constantine’s renovation was breathtaking. He replaced the sandstone with red brick. An acoustical engineer from the East designed the acoustics for the auditorium which are unparalleled even today. The hotel dining room became the magnificent auditorium and the kitchen became a state-of-the-art performing stage. At the time, the proscenium was the largest in the Southwest, and the stage was the second largest. Several of the original hotel rooms were converted into Mr. Constantine’s offices and now serve as the board room for the Constantine Arts Council which operates the theatre.
The Constantine Theatre opened formally on December 22, 1914 with The Prince of Pilsen, done by a cast of 62 brought in from Kansas City. Unfortunately, the great flood of 1915 nearly washed away the downtown area. But the Constantine survived.
Mr. Constantine was the manager of the theatre, and he welcomed high school commencements and religious events as well. Unfortunately, in 1926 his health was failing, and he sold the Constantine to A. M. Abbotts, a gentleman who had previously operated a movie theatre in Stillwater, Oklahoma. After 1926, with the new popularity of movies, the stage was replaced with a movie screen, and it was renamed the Kihekah Movie Theatre.
The theater, the last indoor movie screen, closed permanently in 1974 and sat empty for 10 years. The property was acquired by the City of Pawhuska. Over the following decade, the town suffered a series of economic blows, and lost nearly a third of its population. In 1986, a new effort bloomed to restore downtown Pawhuska, starting with the Constantine Theatre. In January of 1987 restoration began by volunteers and the high school carpentry class. In 1989, the Civic Center in Bartlesville was demolished and items that have been dormant since 1976 were removed and relocated to the Constantine Theater. They were going to salvage the iron seats from the Civic Center but found they had deteriorated. But the Constantine did acquire 64 of the aisle bases for a façade along the aisles in the downstairs portion of the Constantine, as well as two stained-glass chandeliers and a chain hoist to hold them for use in the Constantine foyer and also six plaster wall sconces, several lights and some of the ornate wrought-iron railing from the former convention center. The prize was the old city water department ticket counter with its polished wood and money drawers. It was installed in the Constantine where the Council placed mirrors to reflect its beauty.
Fast Forward to Today...
The City of Pawhuska still owns the Constantine Theater today. However, a handful of volunteers have went in and raised money to make prestine updates within the theater. Now, the theater is used for a variety of events, including Comedy Shows, Concerts, School events, Church events, Weddings, Movies, Art Shows, and so much more!
A few of the updates are shown and listed below, in addition to the picture to the right, showing off our new LED Signs out front. Currently, the volunteers are working toward new theater seating to make for a more comfortable experience and a longer stay.
A much needed improvement to the theater, for safety of our guests was a prime necessity.
We have installed LED Strip lighting to the steps and stairways in of the theater. This allows for safety lighting without affecting the feel of a performance.
New Sound was a huge upgrade to the theater. It's a whole new experience for Live Shows, Movies...everything!
One of most important improvements we have made at the theater is the upgrade of our Audio Sound System. Gone is the speaker solution of the 90's and it is replaced by the BOSE F1 Stereo Concert PA System.
There isn't a seat in the theater that does not receive amazing, clear, sound from the new system.
Visit soon to hear this improvement!
The old Orchestra Pit has been removed and filled in to offer a more personal VIP section for our new and upcoming shows. This has been an incredible experience for not only our guests, but also our entertainers.
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