The Colorado Springs City Auditorium celebrated its 90th birthday Sunday with cake, music, a nostalgic glimpse of the past and a hopeful nod to the future.
Completed in 1923, the original cost of construction was about $424,000 (nearly $5.8 million today) and the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.
Today, though, the venerable structure, which includes the Lon Chaney Theatre and in its auditorium, frequent cage fights and flat-track derby bouts, is showing its age in weathered rows of seats and dark hallways.
"It's time for the City Council and the city's industry to get involved and keep the auditorium alive," said guest speaker John Hazlehurst, an Independent columnist. "There is so much potential and yet so much work needed to keep this building vibrant."
The nonprofit Friends of the Historic City Auditorium, formed in 2004 to support the use and maintenance of the historic site as well as the significance of the building, organized the event and invited all of Colorado Springs to join in.
"Here, Here" poets Karen Palus and Luke Cissel, along with Colorado Springs poet laureate Price Strobridge recited from their works and stressed the importance of finding one's place in the community.
Also celebrating his birthday, 93-year-old and former city manager George Fellows said his son's high school reunion was held in the auditorium and he remembered having to fit an elephant through the front doors when a circus visited the city in the late 1960s.
"My friends and family have seen all kinds of shows here, even the Harlem Globetrotters once," said Silvia Keels, 75, as she wiped the birthday cake's rainbow-colored icing off her mouth. "Older folks here remember how much we enjoyed this auditorium, that's why we want it to stay active."
Fellows echoed the sentiments of other guest speakers, urging the community to help keep the auditorium relevant.
"We live in a 'throw-away' society, where something gets old and we just toss it away," Fellows said. "If you really want to be involved in the community and make a difference, this is the way to get involved, by keeping our history alive."
Party attendants Sunday got to enjoy City Rock's climbing wall, a kids' art fest, tours of the building, a theater workshop and a performance by the Air Force Academy's Wild Blue Country band.
"Working with the city is like a marathon race, the work is never done," Fellows said. "Projects and visions get passed on from one person to another, one administration to the next. There is always so much to work on, and there are things that are important, like this auditorium, that are part of that history."