Sinclair Theater

By Luke Anderson

May 11, 2016

The smoke columns and cooling towers rising from the rolling plains of the Wyoming landscape reach for the sky like the skyscrapers of Manhattan, or the spires of a medieval Gothic cathedral.

There are many captivating things to see while driving along Interstate 80 through Wyoming: Elk Mountain; the Red Desert; the rock formations by Green River and Rock Springs. One of the most unique sights is what appears at first glance to be a towering, futuristic metropolis seemingly rising out of nowhere from the sagebrush. As you keep driving closer, it becomes clear that it is not actually the mythical Emerald City, but a massive oil refinery. The refinery and the adjoining town, called Sinclair, may not be a futuristic megalopolis, but it was by no means behind the times when it was built in 1924. It had a school, a police station, a post office, and a recreation building, among many other facilities. The Sinclair Theater was one of these facilities, built to serve a young, modern, industrial town.

Photo credit: Cinema Treasures

The theater was constructed at the same time the town was built in 1924-25 in order to serve the employees of the oil refinery. The town of Sinclair was founded by oil magnate Frank Kistler, who originally named it Parco. The name came from the acronym PARCO, which stands for Producers and Refiners Corporation, the oil company that Kistler owned. The town's name was changed when PARCO was bought by Sinclair Consolidated Oil Corporation in the early 1940s. Fisher and Fisher, an architectural firm based out of Denver, designed most of the original town. To promote a sense of visual unity in the new town, they incorporated a Spanish Mission style motif into most of their buildings, which can still be seen in many of the remaining structures, including the theater. It is attached to the recreation building, post office, and fire and police department buildings. Two gabled towers distinguish the front of the theater from the rest of the building. As can be seen in the historical photo above, an arched colonnade once spanned the front of the building that has since been removed. The exterior walls are finished with stucco and the roof is covered with red clay tiles.

The Sinclair Theater in 2015. Photo credit: Sinclair Theater Restoration Committee

The Sinclair Theater has not shown a movie on its screen since the 1960s. It is currently closed off due to asbestos concerns. However, the community is looking to renovate the theater to be used as a community cultural center. The preservation of Sinclair's historic theater would be a wonderful project and a welcome addition to the community it serves. You can follow and show your support for the restoration project by visiting the Sinclair Theater Restoration Committee's Facebook page. 

 

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