Strong City’s 1900 Theater was bustling like back in the golden days during Saturday’s first ever Black Tie Affair dinner and benefit auction.

Hosted by members of the Strong City Preservation Alliance Board, guests were treated to a night of live music, dancing, drinks and dinner catered by Casa Ramos, as well as the opportunity to win prizes benefiting the future renovation of the building. Despite the name of the function, visitors were encouraged to dress casually, the only requirement being some form of black bow tie or necktie. Creativity was encouraged, meaning some showed up with over-sized cardboard versions of the accessory, while others elected for tuxedo T-shirts and even glow-in-the-dark neckwear.

“We wanted to do something fun while also making it a fundraiser, so we knew that we couldn’t really do anything all that formal or get too expensive,” Preservation Alliance Board Vice President Kay Lauer said. “We figured we could do casual clothes with just a nice or creative black tie so people would feel they could come out. We put a $50 price tag on the ticket, so we had to make it something unique and different.”

The Strong City Preservation Alliance, Inc. is a non-profit organization with a mission to preserve, restore and protect the historic environment within Strong City. The alliance has played an active role in supporting the preservation of the built history of the town, and has been especially focused on bringing the 1900 Theater back to its former glory. So far, the group has organized the removal of trash and recycled material stored in the building; successfully submitted a grant to replace the roof and stabilize the walls of the structure; raised money to tuck point the stone walls, add new coats of paint and repair the soffits; and held other community fundraising efforts around Chase County.

“The building was built in 1900, as you could probably guess,” Board Member Tom Thompson said. “A man named Barney Lantry owned the land up here and he was big into the stone and rock industry. He had multiple quarries here, some of which actually went up through to where the city park is now. He sold a lot of ballasts and stone to the railroad to start out, and ended up constructing buildings for the Santa Fe Railroad all the way out into California and down into Mexico. The Lantry family donated the land to the city, and then the Rettiger family acted as the stonemasons. One of the Rettiger’s descendants, Elena, is actually on our board.

“Some day, we want to turn the area down below into a ballroom, or sort of a community center that can be used for a lot of different purposes. The area upstairs will probably go back to its original purpose and host small community theater.”

While no exact timeline for the finished remodeling currently exists, progress is continually being made, and the alliance will soon be applying for a Kansas Heritage Grant. Event organizers were encouraged to get a possible glimpse of that future Saturday, with locals saying it reminded them of the building they grew up with.

“It was really the place to be for years and years,” Lauer said. “When I was a little girl growing up, it had deteriorated a bit, but we still wanted to come here every Saturday night to see a movie. We would pull up front, run up the stairs, look to see what time the showings got out, and holler to our folks saying, ‘See you at 9:45!’ or whatever the time was so they knew when to come back and pick us up. We’re hoping to get the theater back to what it once was so it can be that same kind of place for families.”

Those looking to get involved in supporting the update are encouraged to reach out online at 1900theater.com or the alliance’s Facebook page for more information on progress and upcoming events.

“We need and will always accept contributions anyone is willing to make,” Thompson said. “We take both cash and check donations to the Strong City Preservation Alliance.”

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