Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Those who walked into El Raton theater in 1930 to see the grand opening showing of Warner Brothers “Song of the West” were also treated to the likes of a medieval Spanish castle.
Designed by the Albuquerque architectural firm George Williamson, Inc. (who also designed Albuquerque’s Kimo Theater), “the exterior facade has turrets, battlements and other appropriate decorations befitting a Spanish castle in the Gothic style of architecture,” according to the cinematreasures.org website.
“The Spanish castle motif was reflected throughout the interior of the building. Surrounding the auditorium’s movie screen, it resembles the theater’s facade of an ancient castle. The audience was made to feel as if they were seated in a courtyard with the side-walls painted in a floral design, resembling vines growing over an old Spanish structure,” the website states.
The murals were painted by noted artist J. Charles Schnoor, “grandson of Baron Jacob Carlzevalt Von Schnoor, who was knighted by King Ludwig of Bavaria for his work in illustrating the German bible,” according to the website.
The theater originally contained 520 seats and was reportedly built for $100,000 by a partnership of Dr. L.A. Hubbard and Thomas F. Murphy.
In 2007, the two-story theater was included in the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Register of Historic Places. According to the Interior Department’s registration form, “The facade is symmetrical, and is topped by a crenellated parapet flanked by small towers and employs a variety of details, including blind arcades, decorative brackets, oriels for lighting effects, and polychromatic finishes suggestive of a Late Gothic Revival style castle.”
The Raton newspaper at that time wrote the ceiling was painted in a “…soft deep blue of the southern sky, studded with many twinkling stars, and here and there, (clouds) floating leisurely across the arched expanse are so real that we can hardly believe we are surrounded by four walls and a roof,” the cinematreasures website wrote.
“The castle-like details of the facade and accompanying atmospherics of the auditorium are singular among New Mexico motion picture theaters. With few alterations, El Raton Theater retains a high degree of integrity as to location and setting, design, materials, workmanship and feeling,” the Historic Places registration form states.
“While the buildings along Second Street display various stylistic designs reflective of changing popular tastes, none offer as striking and memorable a facade as does the fanciful castle-like El Raton Theater,” the form said.