When Thursday morning rolled around, all that remained from the previous days work of demolition was the two story brick face of the Roxy Theater.
Around 9:00 a.m. the excavator bucket was raised level with the Roxy’s roof and positioned against the mid-point of the exterior. In that location the bucket would have sat directly over the building’s cornerstone, had it not been removed by a local one day earlier.
Aside from the county work crew, just a handful of onlookers were present to watch the hydraulic machinery clear the property of the Roxy’s last standing monument.
The brief history of the Roxy that follows was largely compiled by Clarkfield historian and author, Dick Petersen. With extremely little paper record to draw upon, exactitudes are sparse as much of what follows is drawn from memories of those who had been there––individuals such as Charles Nelson, who as an 11-year-old in 1941 used to set pins at the Roxy Theater bowling alley and who can still picture the chain of individuals lined up to see Gone with the Wind.
At the time its original construction began in 1919, no one could have imagined what the building that Alfred and Minnie (Lundberg) Olson originally built as the Olson and Lund Garage would come to be.
The stage was first set for the theater when the Tanberg building––the town’s theater at the time––was demolished in 1933. For a brief stint, the productions were moved to City Hall, but only before the theater, pool hall, lunch room and three to four lane bowling alley were built, and the Roxy came into being.
For decades, it became the place for entertainment.
Despite the best efforts of individuals like Oscar and Irene Kise, who added recreation rooms and the Roxy Lunch to the site in 1952 as well as a coffee shop in 1957, townsfolk were unable to stop the slow demise of the theatre as it fell victim to the drastic changes impacting much of rural America.
Beginning in the early sixties, differing businesses within the Roxy Theater began to close shop––Knute Hanson’s garage being the last holdout of the early seventies.
Though it remained by and large empty for three decades, there were those in town who hoped that some day, someone might attempt to salvage the Roxy Theater. Even recently, there prevailed a belief that the site might be made into a museum.
Presently, the county is scheduled to take its first steps toward the redevelopment of the property during its board meeting next week––which in the long run will result in either the property being turned over to the city or turned to the highest bidder at auction.
The City of Clarkfield will receive first dibs on the property, though in order to take ownership, must have plans to develop the area for the benefit of the entirety of community. This might include something like a park or some form of economic development.
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