Built in 1913, the historic Park Theatre is one of the oldest buildings in Estes Park, Colorado. It has provided generations of Coloradoans with entertainment and continues to be a community favorite.
The Park Theatre opened in 1913 and was one of the earliest features of the Estes Park land development in Colorado. The Estes Park Town Company, an organization of wealthy landowners and businessmen in the area, commissioned architect J.R. Anderson to design and begin the project. Parts of the building were constructed in Longmont, Colorado, and transported to Estes Park for the final installation. C.H. Bond completed the project in 1913, and in September of that year, he and his wife Alma purchased the property from the Estes Park Town Company. Fred Jackson operated the theater under the Bonds’ supervision until 1922, when they sold the building to Ralph Gwynn.
Gwynn operated projectors and sound equipment at various movie houses throughout Denver before investing in the Park Theatre. Shortly after purchasing the property, he began renovations that increased the interior space, and he introduced a new projection technique to the theater. Gwynn added the front lobby and an additional twelve feet to the projection booth, which now constitute the west portion of the building. The additional area added to the projection space would allowed Gwynn to pass the light beam of the projector through a window that looked into the auditorium. It was an innovative method that had not been practiced at any other theaters in the area but soon became standard practice in film projection. In 1926, Gwynn added an eighty-foot tower with neon lighting to the building to catch the attention of potential customers and improve advertising. This addition soon became a landmark and added to the tourist appeal of Estes Park. Locals referred to this new addition as the “Tower of Love,” as they believed Gwynn designed and dedicated it to his wife, Mary. The couple operated the theater until Ralph’s passing in 1963.
Vic Walker purchased the building from Ralph Gwynn’s estate sale and continued operating the theater with one of Gwynn’s close friends, John Ramey. The two ran the Park Theatre for five more years before selling the property to Ola and Mickey Stanger, owners of several movie theaters and drive-ins throughout Colorado, including the Lake Estes Drive-in, also in Estes Park. Vic Walker continued operating the theater alongside the Stangers until 1982, when the couple took full control of the movie house with their children. When Ola and Mickey passed in the early 2000s, their descendants took over the Park Theatre along with their other entertainment properties. The theater remains open and is operated as a Stanger family business. While there have been many additions and renovations to the original building, it remains a treasured landmark for generations of Estes Park residents.