In 1925, Topeka businessman E.H. Crosby had a dream: to build Topeka's first deluxe motion picture palace.


On August 16, 1926, that dream became reality with the grand opening of the Jayhawk Theatre, one of the first multi-level air-conditioned theaters in the nation.


Thomas W. Williamson of Topeka was the local architect of record.  Williamson worked with the famed Boller Brothers, Carl and Robert, of Kansas City, who are credited with the design of nearly 100 classic theaters. The resulting Jayhawk Theatre auditorium design born from these visionary men was such a success the Boller Brothers used it as a model for future theaters.


Topeka's citizens flocked to the Jayhawk for movies, first silent then sound, and the touring vaudeville entertainers, as well as numerous local and national performers.  Early performers included Bob Hope, George Burns, Gypsy Rose Lee and Marilyn Maye.


With the passage of time and the availability of other entertainment options, audiences declined, and in 1976, the theater closed...


...but the dream would not die. In August, 1993, supporters of the theater, including the Reverend Richard Taylor, formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation called the Historic Jayhawk Theatre, Inc.


In 1994, Jim Parrish purchased the Crosby Department Store property including the theater. Shortly thereafter, Jim and Nancy Parrish deeded the theater as a gift to the nonprofit organization.




Today the vision for a vibrant and restored Historic Jayhawk Theatre, reclaiming this rich history, is stronger than ever.