El Morro Theatre
The 1928 El Morro Theater is the only example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in Gallup. It was designed by Carl Boller of the Boller Brothers architecture firm of Los Angeles and Kansas City. The Boller Brothers firm was responsible for designing many theaters in the Southwest, Midwest and California. Once described as a "castle of pleasure and art", the El Morro occupies a prominent location on Coal Avenue and has been the backdrop to many Indian Tribal Ceremonial parades.
This two-story row building has a barrel vault roof, clay tile parapet cap, symmetrical facade and roof drains and corbels. The original street facade is stucco with an inscribed tile-like pattern and a false stuccoed keystone-like arch. The main focus of the facade is the central portion consisting of ornate, low-relief, molded, half-round columns (vaulting shafts), architrave and impost moldings, and two architrave windows. On either end of this portion are two porthole-like openings with horizontal wood louvers and decorative plaster molded surrounds. Above is a decorative, low relief, molded plaster parapet with curvilinear gable and molded shields. Four small cone-shaped finials are missing from this area. Along the upper facade is a row of nine arched windows with wooden spindle frieze and six-over-one double-hung sash windows. The central window in this configuration is larger, more ornate, and four-lite sidelites.
The lower portion of the north facade consists of two storefronts, one on each side of the entrance to the theater. The door and window configuration of these storefronts remains as original except that the transoms have been covered and the wooden window frames have been replaced with aluminum. The entrance foyer of the theater is recessed, leading to the original ticket office between two wood and glass entry doors. Decorated with zigzag pattern glazed tile, the ticket booth protrudes into the foyer and is glazed on three sides. The original poster display cases with zigzag pattern glazed tile below are still in use at the front of the theater. The ceiling of the foyer is beamed in a coffer-like pattern with heavily textured plaster panels between. Each beam has been plastered and decorated with a striated scratch pattern surface texture. The foyer floor consists of small multicolored ceramic tile.
The original marquee has been replaced several times but the shape refers back to the original marquee shape. The lobby of the El Morro is rectangular in shape with a concession stand directly across from the entry (where tickets for movies and entertainment are also sold).
Originally the stage was surrounded by a large Reuter organ used both for movies and vaudeville. The organ was moved out of the theatre in the 1950s and relocated to Las Cruces, then relocated again in 1996 to the original manufacturer. The organ was restored and sits as a historic showpiece at the Reuter organ headquarters in Lawrence, Kansas. Originally there was a cry room associated with the ladies' room, complete with a glass panel so mothers could continue to watch the movie while they comforted their children.
The walls of the El Morro were lavishly decorated with painted murals by David A. Swing of Phoenix. These murals depicted locally important historical scenes; the titles were Onate Passing El Morro, Surrender of Zunis to De Vargas Qoronado before Hawaikuh, and Pioneers Passing Navajo Church rock. Unfortunately, these works of art have have been painted over, but good records exist of how they originally appeared.