By John Beaudoin
When the Vogue Theater first opened in downtown Lee’s Summit, the town population measured around 2,200 and James Cagney was one of the biggest names in Hollywood. Some 80-plus years later, the Vogue marquee is getting a rebirth.
Thanks to the efforts of a local homeowners’ association, a local businessman and the talents of the guys at Fossil Forge Design, a replica of the original Vogue Theater marquee will soon illuminate downtown Lee’s Summit.
“We go to a lot of small towns around the country and a lot of them still have their original theater marquees,” Fossil Forge owner Dave Eames said. “This would have been the biggest, brightest sign in Lee’s Summit for many years.”
The Vogue Theater opened in 1940, premiering with “City for Conquest,” starring Cagney and Ann Sheridan. The second movie ever to play at The Vogue turned out to be legendary, the big-screen classic “Gone with the Wind.”
The theater was open less than three decades before closing and making way for Hartley’s Furniture. Today, several retail shops line the bottom floor and the Vogue Condominiums occupy the top floors. Bruce Holiman, a local insurance agent, who owns a portion of the building, contacted Fossil Forge after a massive renovation on the building and facade.
“He asked us, ‘What are the chances to replicate the old sign?’ and we took off from there,” Wine said.
The original look, font, color (coral letters with turquoise neon) and even size (20 feet tall, 2 feet wide) of the VOGUE letters were reproduced at Fossil Forge and they’re also installing “Now Showing” signage in the same location it would have been back in 1940.
“It’s going to be a nice, new landmark in downtown,” Eames said. “It’ll be an icon in the city, a little bit like the Hartley Heart. Here we are in 2022, and it is coming back to life.”
Some original theater seating, movie posters and the popcorn machine can be found at the Lee’s Summit Historical Museum, a project Fossil Forge assisted on with displays and wall graphics.
“This is important to us, too, because it’s a real landmark,” Eames said. “It will really herald your arrival in downtown. I want people to be proud to come here and show their friends the old theater sign. It’s a pretty sweet little gift to the city.”
Fossil Forge, Holiman and the Vogue HOA are planning a lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16. The location is 313 SE Douglas. All are welcome to attend.