Saskatoon Heritage Society seeks metropolis council assist to revive a part of historic Capitol film theatre
The Saskatoon Heritage Society seeks the support of the city council to honor a unique part of the city’s past.
The group wants to restore artifacts from the Capitol cinema and exhibit them publicly. For 50 years the building reigned as the city’s grand film palace and served as a public meeting place until it was bitterly demolished in 1979.
“This year [Dec. 1] Anniversary of the demolition, “Peggy Sarjeant, the association’s president, recently wrote to the city council.” The memories of this great theater are numerous. “
The Capitol is located downtown on 2nd Avenue, where the Scotia Center shopping mall now stands.
The current architecture critic for The Globe and Mail recently called the Capitol one of “10 Iconic Canadian Buildings We Lost”.
The theater played first films and also hosted many civic events: on-stage cooking shows for housewives from the Depression era, live plays by University of Saskatchewan students, hypnosis shows by Reveen.
Traveling hypnotist Reveen was a popular non-movie draw at the Capitol. (Type Quenneville / CBC)
When the theater was demolished in 1979 despite a “Save the Cap” campaign, several artifacts were stored in a municipal warehouse – everything from the stage’s painted backdrops to the large pillars that lined the theater’s carpeted ticket line.
Columns from the cap’s long corridor are among the artifacts kept in a Saskatoon city warehouse. (Saskatoon Public Library Local History Room; Item PH-7725-42)
The objects stay there and collect dust.
“These artifacts are large and impressive and, once restored, could be brought together to recreate the entrance and part of the interior of the theater,” Sargeant said.
In the camp there are also large, painted theater sets that stood behind the stage curtain of the Capitol. (Type Quenneville / CBC)
“It is time we found a home for these artifacts – somewhere where the public can see them and glimpse the former grandeur of the theater.”
Sarjeant mentioned the city’s planned downtown entertainment district, but added, “We’re not locating anything” in terms of location.
Many other Capitol artifacts found their way into Saskatoon homes and businesses.
For example, a theater “exit” sign says goodbye to visitors in the local history room of the Saskatoon Public Library, and Richard Perry, a Saskatoon resident, ran off with rolls of auditorium rugs that had been dropped in an alley during the demolition.
“The carpet in this theater was really amazing,” said Perry. “So I gathered up some soaking wet parts, threw them in my old Volvo station wagon and said, ‘If nothing else, I could use it in the back of my car or something.'”
- See below: 5 locations in Saskatoon with relics from the Capitol Theater
Perry’s wife Verna said recapturing the opulence of the theater was not an easy task.
“I think it would be very difficult [to] get it fair to really make people feel when they weren’t [there],” She said.
“We have enough on our plate”
The councilors are due to hear in the Sarjeant town hall on Monday morning.
It’s a tough sell for Coun. Darren Hill.
“I’m not ready to consider new capital projects,” said Hill. “However, I wouldn’t rule out exhibiting them in an up-to-date building.
“We have just enough on our plate and my priority is to finish the arena and convention center studies.”
Not that Hill has no memories of the Capitol.
He remembers seeing Jaws at the Capitol when he was seven years old.
“I clearly remember being afraid to go into the theater washroom because I thought the shark would come out of the pipes and get me!” he said.
- Read a full oral story or watch a three-part documentary about the Capitol Theater at www.cbc.ca/thecap
The Day They Tore Down The Capitol, published on cbc.ca/thecap, features rare and never-before-seen interviews with key figures in the Capitol affair. (CBC)