Quality of Life
It was over 80 years ago when the Temple Theatre first opened its doors on Viroqua’s Main Street and proclaimed itself Vernon County’s “Window to the World”. Young and old were linked through this vibrant arts center where they enjoyed the latest film, live musical performance, school play or traveling theatrical production. Good times were shared and hard times forgotten—if only for a few hours.
Decades passed, and the once proud facility grew progressively time-weary. In 1992, the Temple Theatre closed its doors and was left unattended for two years. This neglect resulted in significant damage, including deteriorating brick work, a leaking roof, mold and mildew, standing water in the orchestra pit, water damage to the ornamental plaster and wall coverings.
An organized campaign to restore the Temple Theatre began in 1994 when it was placed under the control of Associates to the Restore the Temple Theatre (ARTT)—a grassroots, nonprofit organization comprised of member/volunteers who come from all ages and walks of life, including farmers, business owners, professionals, students and retired citizens. ARTT volunteers immediately began raising funds and working to save the building during the stabilization phase to make it safe to use for limited programming.
Some of the most noteworthy projects during that period included the marquee restoration, new roofs, extensive tuck pointing of exterior brick, installation of new gas furnaces and an air conditioning system, repair and reupholstering of all 580 seats, overall cleaning, lobby painting, insulating the auditorium attic and installing granite tile in the entrance.
A successful $1.5 million fundraising campaign by ARTT in 2000 and 2001 provided the funds to return the theatre to its original Classical Revival decor, as well as bring it into compliance with federal and state codes for public buildings. The restoration and renovation was completed in July of 2002 and celebrated with ribbon cuttings, dedications and entertainment. The restored building included modern restrooms, sound and lighting systems and handicapped accessibility.
The Theatre now brings the downtown to life with frequent, live performances by performing artists like Doug Stone, Ozark Jubilee, and Sons of the Joaquin. Jazz, Harp Festivals, and Blue Grass Concerts have also been a part of the annual entertainment offered at the Temple. Part of the restoration included repairing and restoring the original 1922 Temple Theatre’s Wurlitzer organ. Michael Hengelsberg, founder and current Chapter President of the Scenic Bluffs Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society, worked with the Associates to Restore the Temple Theatre to raise the necessary funds and restore the organ, which was returned to the Temple Theatre for the grand re-opening ceremonies in 2002. Through ARTT’s efforts, the Temple is currently listed on the United States and the Wisconsin Registers of Historic Places.
Temple Theatre Website • Phone: 637-8190