Ridgway's Sherbino Theater Turns 100, Changes Ownership

Jan 20, 2015

This year the Sherbino Theater in Ridgway is celebrating its one-hundredth anniversary.

The theater is known for the musical acts and guest lecturers it brings to the Western Slope. 

A Tour Of The Historic Sherbino 

"The building was built by Louis Sherbino," Patrick O’Leary, the president of the Ridgway Chautauqua Society, says. "And he built the theater so that his son and daughter-in-law would have a place to play. His son was a fiddle player."

The Chautauqua Society now runs the theater. 

O’Leary says when the venue was first built in 1915 people entered it by first walking through the Sherbino drugstore.

"You would enter in the drugstore and you would buy your tickets, but you would also be exposed to the candy and soda fountain," he says. "And, you would come into a door over here into the middle of the theater and take your seat for the silent film."

Over the years, the building has changed hands and served many purposes. O’Leary says it was even a roller rink at one point.

"And, of course it’s always been the gathering place in town," he says. "I understand from the local papers at the time that 300 people came here to hear that the United States had just entered World War I."

In the winter of 2009 the Sherbino closed. After that it re-opened as a saloon, but closed again in 2011. In December of that year community members banded together to take over managing the theater. That group later became the Chautauqua Society. And, O’Leary is happy to announce the organization now owns the Sherbino. 

"What I think is really compelling about that and what’s different about it this time around...is for the very first time the historic building itself will be in the hands of a community based nonprofit," he says.

Ashley King is the executive director of the Sherbino. She says the theater’s programming draws a wide crowd.

"Music enthusiasts love the Sherbino because it’s a place to listen to live music," King says. "Poetry enthusiasts love the Sherbino because it’s a place to listen and share live poetry. Lecture enthusiasts love to come and learn more about the other people that live in this community or in this region."

She says some well-known figures and musical acts have come to the theater including singer Mollie O’Brien, pianist Doris Merritt and author Craig Childs.

Looking Ahead

The Sherbino officially turns 100 in September. O’Leary says there will be a celebration to mark the anniversary. 

And, over the next several years the Chautauqua Society plans to repair and renovate parts of the theater.

"We need a new roof so that will be one of the early things we do and plan for," he says. "So there will probably two to three phases of work."

However, before construction can start money needs to be raised for renovations and covering the cost of buying the building.

"We will be looking to raise in excess of $750,000," he says. "We don’t have a finalized number yet because we are still working closely on our renovation plans."

A two-year capital campaign is being planned to work towards that goal.

But, O’Leary says the most important thing is 'to keep the lights on and the shows going'.