Performing arts facilities have been a vital part of life in Cache Valley for at least 126 years. In 1912, when the 800-seat Thatcher Opera House was destroyed by fire, George and Brigham Thatcher envisioned an ornate, first-class theatre to replace it, in the backyard of the Thatcher-Young Mansion.
The theatre they envisioned became reality 12 years later when the new Capitol Theatre opened on March 23, 1923. At the hefty price of $250,000, the beautiful new theatre boasted a fly system, excellent acoustics, and an opulent interior. Named for its rival in Salt Lake City, the Capitol Theatre contributed to the image of Logan as “the Athens of Utah” and for the next few decades it was at the heart of cultural activities in Cache Valley.
The beautiful structure was grand enough to attract the great entertainers: Abbot and Costello, John Philip Sousa, the Marx Brothers, and George Burns and Gracie Allen. Live performances shared the stage with films, which became dominant through the 1930's. Thousands of avid moviegoers flocked to the theatre until television emerged in the 1950's. The crowds waned and films shared the space with community productions.
By the 1980s, the Capitol Theatre had suffered from years of neglect. The ornate plasterwork had been painted industrial green, burlap sacks covered the stunning murals portraying the mythical phoenix bird, and a massive plywood wall blocked the stage. Some spoke of demolishing the building to provide additional parking. A few visionary citizens, seeing a greater potential, united the community in an ambitious $4.3 million project to restore the theatre and create the adjacent Bullen Center. As a result of this grass roots effort, the building was transferred to the City of Logan, becoming a community theatre in the very best sense. Thousands of volunteer hours were contributed to the effort, and on Jan. 8, 1993, the Capitol Theatre was reopened and renamed the Ellen Eccles Theatre in honor of early Logan resident and philanthropist Ellen Stoddard Eccles.
Like the mythological Phoenix, which perishes in the fire and is reborn in the ashes, the Ellen Eccles Theatre is more vibrant than ever. Nationally recognized performers have graced the stage, and commented on the quality of the acoustics and the facility. The Ellen Eccles Theatre, the “crown jewel” of Cache Valley, is once again at the heart of the arts in Cache Valley.