HISTORY OF ROBERT GARD THEATER BUILDING
111 E. JEFFERSON ST.
On this site in 1894, Fred Post built the Post Block. This included the Post Opera House and the Post Hotel. Grand opening of the hotel and opera house was January 1, 1895. In 1916, exactly 21 years later, a fire destroyed the portion of the building that housed the opera house.
Finally, in 1921, due the generosity of the citizens of our community, Fred Post built the present building. It open in 1922, with silent movies and live plays from stock companies that toured towns. In September 1925, the theater was sold to Ross K. Lange from Cobb, Wisconsin. At that time, he had a contest to select a name for the theater. The name Wisconsin Theater was picked. In September 1929, the Wisconsin Theater installed “talking pictures” equipment.
Between June 1930 and March 1948, the theater closed and opened many times. After a fire in 1948, O.A. Freck purchased the theater with the plan to have his son Bruce run it. Shortly after the purchase, O.A. Freck died and his son, Bruce, took over ownership and remodeling of the building. He put new air condition, new seats and installed new restrooms in the basement. At that time, he renamed the theater The Green. Bruce continued to run the theater until it was purchased by Renny Baker and Walter Wilkinson. Bert Richardson was manager of the theater and when he left Hubert “Sandy” Duren took over.
A group of businesses and individuals wanted to make Spring Green a major center for the Performing Arts with all live productions. The River Valley Theater Corporation was formed and purchased the building. In November 1966, movies were no longer shown weekly. The theater name was changed to Robert E. Gard in March 1967. A few performing groups were located here but it was not real successful. In December 1970, William Keland and Rudolph Kraemer sold the theater and building to the Spring Green Theater Corporation, a local group, who bought stock for $100 a share. They brought back movies to the theater. In May 1973, Fiddler on the Roof was the first movie to be shown after they bought the building. The Spring Green Theater Corporation continued to operate the theater until January 1987 when a non-profit Community Theater Association was formed which continues to operate the theater today. With annual memberships, the Theater Association is able to keep the Robert E. Gard Theater open. Movies are shown each weekend when local plays or activities aren’t using the theater.