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$95,000 infusion is just the ticket for renovating theater

Staff writer

Sunflower Theater in Peabody, which has been in a state of renovation since 2019, has received three grants totaling more than $95,000 in quick succession.

The largest is an $85,000 Heritage Trust Grant from the Kansas Historical Society to repair, clean, and secure the exterior envelope of the building.

Sunflower Theater board chairman Susan Mayo said the grant would be used to fix cracks, replace pieces of the roof, repair three brick walls, and regrout and power-wash the terracotta tiles at the front of the building.

“It’s a really unique, ornate theater front,” she said. “One of the things we pushed in the grant is that this needs to be preserved.”

The tiles have faced the public since the theater was built in 1920 and have been largely unchanged since then. They endured the theater’s brief foray as a bowling alley, which heavily changed the interior and ticket booth.

Mayo said she was a little upset that very little of the original theater interior remained, but it gave the board a lot of freedom for remodeling plans.

“We’ll try and follow the basics,” she said. “We’ll honor what the building was and not do a bunch of neon or anything tacky.”

The board may install a bed and breakfast upstairs to compensate for Peabody’s lack of lodging. It also is considering remaking unused storefronts neighboring the theater into classrooms for dance classes or for Peabody-Burns High School to use. Plans for the interior and a business plan for when the theater eventually reopens are still being crafted.

Another major contribution to the theater was a $10,000 matching grant from an anonymous donor. The donor will be doubling donations up to $10,000 to the theater from now until April.

“A lot has been happening in the past few weeks,” Mayo said.

A third contribution is a memorial for Gary Jones, husband of board member Marilyn Jones. Marilyn listed Sunflower Theater as one of the funds for donations in memory of Gary, and Mayo said the theater had received several donations.

“It feels like, to us, that we’re really on our way now and that this is really going to happen,” Mayo said.

The Sunflower Theater is the smallest historical theater in Kansas. The second-smallest is in a community twice as large as Peabody.

Sunflower Theater’s connection with the community through its fundraisers is what gave it the Heritage Trust grant, according to Mayo.

“This is something that’s a countywide project,” Mayo said. “As we make this a destination place, it’s a destination place for the whole county. I feel like this whole thing is a synergy of the whole community.”

Donations are being accepted by Peabody Community Foundation and should be addressed to Sunflower Theater Fund; otherwise, they will go into the foundation’s general fund. They are being accepted at PO Box 18, Peabody KS 668666.

Last modified March 2, 2022

 

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