|Well over a century ago, the first transactions
to determine land holdings in the new, rural town of Lindsborg were being made. From
original possession by the U.S. Government, through the railroads, the Swedish
Agricultural Company and the Lindsborg Town Company, can be traced the early ownership of
the land that is now occupied by The Courtyard. By 1881, the lot (#4) comes into
private hands. Before all was said and done, even the Sheriff of McPherson County
was involved in its ownership prior to the construction in 1913 of a motion picture
theatre owned and operated by
Roy Bengston. Opening night was on August 1, 1913, with "Escape from
Bondage" as the featured attraction. This film was the first of a series called
"What Happened to Mary," a popular story of the day that had appeared in
"Ladies World." Admission was ten and twenty-five cents!
If the old walls of The Courtyard could talk, they'd tell tales of comedy and
pathos that would parallel the history of motion pictures. The Wonderland Photoplay,
as the theatre was first called, was the place to see Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and
other stars of the silent movie era. Local pianists played the old upright to add to
the thrill of the black and white pictures. On some occasions, a small orchestra
made up of local musicians, accompanied the films.
In 1919, C.F. Rosine, an early-day mayor of Lindsborg wrote:
"The Wonderland Photoplay is considered the cleanest and best theatre of its
kind. It is open just certain days of the week, and closed on Sunday."
Remodeled in the early 30's, The
Wonderland Photoplay became the Plaza Theatre with new management and the miracle of
sound. For decades, and through the anxious days of World War II, the Plaza was the
place where not a few current residents and former Bethany College students remember
taking their families or "dates" for a box of hot-buttered popcorn, a
"coke", and a good show.
Succumbing to the onslaught of TV and the attraction of newer
theatres in larger towns, the Plaza gradually slipped into disuse and the building stood
vacant more and more.
That is, until 1983, when Wayne and Maleta Forsberg
envisioned new life for this historic place. The old stage, the worn screen and
tattered seats, the obsolete projection equipment - even the tiled lobby would be removed
to be replaced by a unique "mini mall" of Scandinavian design. Only the
slope of the south aisle would remain with just enough of the old brick wall exposed to
betray the age of the original structure.
For months, painstaking craftsmen, under
the creative direction of Ross Pope, worked to bring to classic reality the shops and
offices clustered around the skylight-covered cafe. Opened in November of 1984, The
Courtyard has already endeared itself to hundreds of visitors and Little Sweden residents
The Courtyard Gallery is now owned by Ken and Linda Branch
and features a well-respected art gallery including the works of many talented Kansas
artists, and an authentic bakery specializing in coffee and Scandinavian fare. Come
and visit us at The Courtyard Gallery!