Wallace Blankenship saw potential in Levelland, Texas.
The original Wallace in Levelland, Texas, was built in 1925, just across the street from its current location.
The first cooling system for a Levelland theater was an old dempster windmill at the back of the theater. It was driven by a three-horse electric motor and pulled in fresh air from the shady side of the building.
The location of the first Wallace Theater in Levelland came at the suggestion of Judge John H. Doyle, the county’s first judge. It must have been a bit of a gamble for Wallace Blankenship. According to Editor Orlin Brewer of the Levelland Daily Sun News in 1957, Wallace didn’t hesitate a minute at the suggestion of Judge Doyle. Wallace started working towards locating the theater here the very next day.
“I felt like Levelland would be a good town and would be the county seat,” said Blankenship.
He guessed right.
A NEW LOCATION
Where it stands today, The Wallace was built in 1928, and the original Wallace across the street was renamed the Rose; eventually, the Old Rose when the New Rose was built next door.
On Wednesday, October 5, 1949 the Wallace Theater in Levelland, TX reopened as “West Texas’ Finest," fully renovated to be the movie palace Wallace Blankenship had been dreaming of since 1926.
At the time, the Wallace Theater was a state of the art theater that boasted E-7 Simplex projectors, 4 star Western Electric Sound, fully upholstered opera chairs, and most impressively fully automatic (winter and summer) air conditioning!
The renovated theater included deep carpets to hide foot traffic sounds, a cry room, and a smoking room. The lights of the marquee were described to be as bright as any you would envision on Broadway in New York City.
By 1957, Wallace Blankenship had built the largest small town theater chain in America. “That a business enterprise such as he built could originate in Levelland will forever be a credit to the city, just as Blankenship was a credit to the county and area,” said Brewer.
Blankenship saw the potential in Levelland and that great potential is being realized and is still thriving today.
A NEW LIFE
In March of 2002 George & Iris Keeling had the opportunity to purchase the Wallace Theater. Motivated by childhood memories and a love of Levelland, George saw this as an opportunity to invest in and serve the community. From the beginning it was a community project. People were excited to see something happening in the old building and were excited to share their stories.
Once the building was purchased George started a major clean out project. One of the first things to do was remove the 300 long time unwelcome residents of the building... pigeons. George hired pigeon catchers who removed the birds and found them new homes. Next was to to open up the drop down ceiling in the auditorium to reveal the beautiful scrolling mural from the 1950s. George hired students and local youth groups to help with a lot of the clean out to help them raise funds for school and church trips.
The lobby and loft spaces of the Wallace have been fully renovated as the first phase of the project. Visitors will see significant work and improvements in the lobby with freshly painted walls and stained concrete set to showcase and accent a variety of art work and styles. In the upstairs loft, originally the living quarters for the Blankenship Family and later theater managers behind the balcony, you will find a unique and beautiful venue with extraordinary views of downtown Levelland. It is really quite a site to see the lush green lawn and old courthouse from this vantage point.
A majority of the work and renovations that have been done are not visible. When George Keeling purchased the building over 17 years ago, there were significant structural concerns with the second story and loft. Steel beams had to be installed in the ceiling of the lobby to support the second story and additional steel work was done in the loft to reinforce the roof. The 501c3 organization was established in 2015 and the building is now owned by the 501c3 organization.
1925 | The original Wallace Theater of Levelland is built
1928 | The new Wallace Theater is built at 823 Houston Street
1949 | The newly renovated Wallace Theater is opened
1957 | Wallace Blankenship has built the largest small town theater chain in America
Mid-1980s | Closed
2002 | George & Iris Keeling purchased the Wallace to restore and revitalize
2015 | Community leaders form non-profit organization to continue restoration and renovation efforts