| FAIRFAX, OK For nearly 60 years, no one has stepped foot
in the Tall Chief Theatre. The theatre is a reminder of days gone
past when things were just a little bit easier and Fairfax was a booming
oil town full of rich Osage culture and bustling streets.
Carol Conner leads a tour of the historic Tall Chief Theatre
in downtown Fairfax, OK, on March 25.
Nearly every family in Fairfax has a story about the theatre,
says Dr. Carol Conner, board member of the nonprofit Fairfax Community
Foundation. The four-member Foundation has owned the theatre for
the last 20 years and is trying to restore the Tall Chief back to
its former glory.
On March 25, they held a fundraising event called Art Market
in the Tall Chief and offered a tour of the theatre. The art market
was held in a restored room that used to be a barbershop; the Osage
Casinos gave a $5,000 donation to help restore it and it was completed
about six months ago, she said.
"[The Tall Chief Theatre] was built as both a vaudevillian theatre
and a movie theatre," Conner said. "So that there could be live
acts on stage as well as movies later."
The Tall Chief Theatre was built by Alex Tall Chief in 1928,
when his two daughters, famous ballerinas Maria and Marjorie Tall
Chief, were young. The theatre can seat up to 850 people and as
the floor slopes downward the ceilings get higher, rising to four
stories tall above the stage. Under the stage is an area for dressing
rooms where vaudevillian acts would rush down to change costumes.
Conner said the architect's estimate to restore the Tall Chief
would take about $1.5 million. She said about 15 years ago private
owners spent between $250,000 to $300,000 on a new roof and other
Six people signed up for Conner's tour and she led them into
the entryway where a girl, always a girl she said, would take money
for tickets and admission was 10 cents for children and 35 cents
for adults. She shows them where there used to be a concession stand
and says, "You could spend all day with 50 cents and have all the
popcorn and sodas you wanted."
In a surprisingly small room off to the left of the entryway
is where the original Fairfax Police Station used to be. Conner
said it would take about $5,000 to restore the room and they would
open it up for community organizations to have meetings and they
could also expand the space used for their art markets.
The staircases leading up to the balcony still have their original
terrazzo steps, she said, and the entire inside of the theatre has
"A lot of renovation work has been completed. The roof was fixed
but there are many walls missing so we need walls sheetrocked,"
she said. "We have electricity, and we have heat and air; we do
not have plumbing. And so, plumbing is the big expensive thing.
The old bathrooms were tiny and there will be structural renovations
that will have to be done to get bathrooms into the building."
As she leads the tour into the main theatre, participants comment
on how big the theatre is and how grand it must have been. The entire
inside of the theatre, including the upstairs balcony and offices,
have been reduced to beams of wood, ready for framers to put in
walls and sheetrock when the funding is available.
"The Fairfax Community Foundation is a 501c3 and people can
make tax-deductible contributions, or they can join as members and
donate money that way," she said. "We can take donations of time,
and/or money at any time."
Conner said David Grann, author of "Killers of the Flower Moon:
The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI," will be in Fairfax
later in the month and they plan to have a book signing for him
at the Tall Chief on either April 30 or May 1. She said there will
be a traditional Osage meal served for him in town or at the Grayhorse
community building. Once plans are finalized the Osage News will
post the date and time to their social media sites.
For more information on the Fairfax Community Foundation, or
how to donate, call (918) 642-3814.