Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and the Historic Midwest Theater

I chose Scottsbluff, Nebraska, to see the Pony Express Re-Ride this summer because it was within driving distance (3 hours) of where I live, and the pony was expected during daylight hours. If you read my post about the re-ride, you’ll know I had a few hours to pass before the pony actually showed up. During that time, I explored a little of the town of Scottsbluff. Here’s the main drag:

The town’s population is only about 15,000, and you can see that the architecture is that of many Great Plains towns: flat facades and straight straight streets. Founded in 1899, the town was named after the actual bluff (on the right in the photo here)…

… which was named after a guy named Hiram Scott a fur trader that was found dead in the area. Sounds to me like there’s a lot more to that story!

The town of Scottsbluff is the largest town on the Nebraska panhandle. It’s grown together with Gering, a town across the North Platte River; my hotel was in Gering, about 5 minutes away. This metropolis is the seventh largest urban area in the state. The most interesting fact I unearthed about Scottsbluff was that Randy Meisner, bassist for the Eagles, was born there.

There wasn’t much happening on a weekday afternoon, but I was happy to find this gem of a theater:

I didn’t get to go inside, but I found this information online, along with some very cool pictures of the place on their website:

  • The Egyptian Theater stood on this site from 1927 until a fire destroyed it in 1945.
  • The Midwest Theater was built in a year and opened in 1947.
  • The tower, made of stainless steel and aluminum, rises 60 feet above the entrance, and it’s 15 feet wide.
  • There are 132 aluminum stars on the tower.
  • The “wings” on the top of the tower have neon lights, and the spheres originally had flashing mercury bulbs. The tower was designed to be seen for 20 miles at night.
  • The interior is largely the same as it was when it opened, thanks to preservation efforts through the years.
  • Two 25-foot, 3D plaster floral scrolls are on either side of the screen.
  • Colorful murals on the walls and ceiling have the same floral pattern.
  • There is lots of neon inside the theater.

  • The designer was Charles D. Strong, a prominent Denver architect.
  • The Scottsbluff Star-Herald had an eight-page edition devoted to the new theater when it opened.
  • In 2002, the marquee and all the inside neon was renovated.
  • The theater was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.
  • They show classic movies there now.

That’s about it for my foray into Scottsbluff, NE. But it does go to show you that, even in a remote, small place like that, you can find something interesting. I did have lunch there at a place called Tangled Tumbleweed, but you’ll see details about that in a future post. Stay tuned!

Photo for No Apparent Reason: