An Elevator for the Wright Opera House
by Watch Staff
Dec 09, 2013 | 1216 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print

OURAY - With nearly 95 percent of its latest fundraising cycle completed, and an outstanding $40,000 matching challenge in the works, Ouray’s iconic Wright Opera House is making the final push to secure the fully budgeted $350,000 required for installing an elevator, restoring the central staircase, making ancillary improvements and funding operations for a full year.  

"This has been a tremendous year!" said Dee Williams, chair of the Friends of the Wright Opera house. "We're close to complete funding, within $20,000 of our goal, for the first phase of restoration, thanks again to incredible community support."  

Purchasing the building in 2011, the Friends of the Wright Opera House succeeded in the first push, in 2013, to initiate restoration of the facility, at an expected $2 million cost, over a five-to-seven-year time frame. The current funds raised will cover the much-needed installation of an elevator at the Wright.  "Easily, one in five individuals mention an elevator" in surveys, says Josh Gowans, executive director of the Wright Opera House.  "It's not something you think about until you're looking at the flight-and-a-half of stairs required to get to the theater,” he said. “Needless to say, the elevator is going to be a great addition to the Wright."

Community support for the Wright has been strong since the 2011 purchase, with most of this last round of funding coming coming from county residents.  "It's just amazing to see the community respond," said Williams.  

In addition to private donations, the Wright has benefited from grant funding from the Gates Family Foundation and El Pomar Foundation. 

The Wright Opera House, built in 1888, quickly became a focal point for culture and entertainment in Ouray, offering a welcome contrast at the time to offerings from the town’s saloons and brothels.  Housing everything from theater to movies to an auto mechanic shop, the Wright evolved over the decades, serving the town in a variety of capacities.  Now in its 125th year, the Wright is once again a cultural and entertainment venue, and is undergoing a restoration tosupport the performing arts for generations to come.  "This is a great project with wide appeal", said Gowans.  "Like all arts organizations in Ouray County, the Wright provides a great deal of intangible benefit that is being recognized more and more by foundations and private individuals.  In fact, the purchase and restoration of the Wright was initiated as an important part of the Ouray 2020 plan.  

"Our goal is to complete the capital raise by December 31,” Williams said, “and to be closed for construction from February to May.

"We are 95 percent of the way there,” he said, of the fundraising goal, “and ready to break ground the first of February.  We just need a final push to make it happen.  All donations during December will be matched, up to $40,000.  About half of the match has been met."

For information about the Wright Opera House, and its fundraising plans, visit

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