Monday, July 30, 2018

Gaslight-Baker Theater, Lockhart Texas

My first trip to Lockhart was with the intent of exploring the Caldwell County Courthouse. I had parked on the square and was crossing the street to the Courthouse and glanced to my right for oncoming traffic when I saw this building; I knew immediately that it had been a movie theater at one time and immediately left the square to explore!  

Located on a side street off the square, the Gaslight-Baker Theater has been providing citizens with  entertainment since its opening night on October 29, 1920. According to the theater's website there were two showings of "Old Kentucky" starring Anita Stewart and an estimated crowd of 1,500-2,000 people attended. 

At the time of its 1920 opening the theater was proclaimed by many to be more opulent and modern than many others in the state. Sadly, the theater underwent a remodeling in the 1930's and then another more extensive remodeling in the 1950's that give the theater much of its present day appearance. The pinkish ceramic tile was added to the lower exterior, as well as the angled front wall and enlarged marquee. The enclosure of the lobby probably dates to this remodeling.  The Gaslight-Baker also owns the building next door (barely visible to the right of the theater in the first picture) where there offices and box office are now located.
Mr. A.D. (Colonel) Baker had built this theater after his first theater burned; he would continue to own and operate it until his death in 1936. The Baker Show Company owned and operated the facility until 1959 when it was purchased by the Valentine family. The theater remained in operation until March 1984 and sat vacant until 1997 when the Lockhart Community Theater acquired the building and converted it to accomodate live theater productions. Their first production,"Steel Magnolias", opened in October 1998.  Ten years later LCT Baker Theater merged with Lockhart's Gaslight Theater to form today's Gaslight-Baker Theater and continues to offer year-round productions. The theater is part of the Caldwell Courthouse Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Close up of  Proscenium Arch visible above stage set
A plaque on the theater exterior indicates that 
The original vaudeville stage, portions of the 1920s interior, 1935 Grande Drape and Proscenium Arch remain intact.
When the two theater groups merged the exterior of the building was refurbished, the lobby updated, and the balcony eventually was re-opened as a seating area. Interestingly, Mrs. Valentine had taken out all the seats and put in shag rugs for theater goers to sit on sometime in the 1970's.

I returned to Lockhart recently to see the current production, The Lion in Winter, which did not disappoint.  The staging and acting was outstanding and the theater warm and welcoming.

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