Historic Properties – “Shawano has History”

The Nagle Building


Photo Gallery

A Brief History

The Nagle Building
220 S. Main Street
Shawano, WI

George and Anna Nagle came from Rhinelander and bought the 220 S Main Street property from F. D. Naber.  The Nagles planned the Crescent Theater in 1914 and built and opened the theater starting with the grand opening on March 1, 1915. This was a “state of the art” theater with all the latest technology and comforts. Live Vaudeville and other entertainers were the primary attraction with silent movies shown only on “special occasions.”

When built, Anna and George Nagle bought the 511 seats from the Wisconsin Seating Company in New London, WI.  The grand opening was March 1, 1915. The Nagles received an invoice on March 2, 1915 and paid the company the total of $655.22 for the 511 seats, freight, and installation on March 15. How does the Shawano County Historical Society know this? We have Anna Nagles records from the building and operation of the theater.

Anna Nagle was always interested in comfort for her customers so wider seats were later added, reducing the capacity to 463.  Anna Nagle, a prominent business woman in the community, had a policy of keeping pace with changing times. She was always upgrading the technology and the appearance of the theater. Over the almost 40-year Nagle tenure, some improvements included; a new marquee, candy shop with a state of the art popcorn machine, air conditioning, and equipment for “talkies.” The impressive marquee was installed by Ben Poblocki and Sons of Milwaukee.

Independent Theaters Company bought the Crescent from Anna Nagle in the early 1950’s after 26 years of operation. William L. Ainsworth, president of Independent Theaters also added the Shawano Drive-In at the corner of Highways 22 and 187. Russel Robbins operated both until they were sold to John and Elenor Reilly in the late 1950’s.

The Reillys owned the theater until Paul Routhieaux bought the property in the 1996 and changed the approach by offering more food choices, beer, and a 2nd run movies. After 17 years, Routhieaux closed the Crescent Pitcher Show in early December 2013 because movies were moving from film to digital distribution technology. Upgrading the theater technology was estimated at $50k at the time which was simply too costly.

220 S Main Street sat vacant until the “Stubborn Brothers,” Aaron and Erik Gilling, took over the property in 2016. After extensively reworking the entire building but staying true to the original architectural design and period, the Nagle Building is now transformed and reinvented. Thank you to the Stubborn Brothers for respecting the history of the property.

Take a look at the photo gallery showing the Nagle Building and Crescent Theater through the years.


From the 1999 National Register of Historic Places Registration application:

The only historic theater in downtown Shawano, this building has excellent overall integrity. Two stories in height and constructed of load-bearing brick, the theater has a slight false gable rising above the roofline, and a simple, molded, pressed-metal cornice underneath. The area between these two features is marked at the center by an inset, pressed-metal plate bearing the name of the original owners of the theater, flanked on either side by smaller inset panels with the date of construction, which is split in half with two digits on either side of the name plate.

Beneath the cornice are six one-over-one, double-hung windows, each surmounted by a three-light transom. The windows rest on a continuous concrete sill that extends slightly beyond the end windows. Each window is surrounded by a slightly raised brick frame with square white concrete accents at the upper comers of the surround. The four windows at the center share the vertical elements of these frames between them. The single window at either end is slightly set apart from the rest and independently framed. A slightly raised brick panel with shallow corbels projects from immediately under the continuous second story window sill described previously.

The storefront area of the theater has a predominately intact, black structural glass surround applied during the late 1930s. The upper portion of this facade is marked by a projecting marquee dating from the early 1950s; windows to either side were blocked with siding at approximately the same time. At the center of the facade at the ground floor is a narrow one-person ticket booth which projects from the facade in a semi-hexagonal shape. It is sheathed in black structural glass and has the historic name of the theater etched in Art Deco-Style lettering above the booth window. With the exception of one broken glass panel at the base of the ticket booth, this feature is entirely intact.

The booth is flanked to the south by three narrow doors consisting of wide oak frames surrounding a three-quarters length, plate glass window; the remainder of the lower portion of the door being covered by an aluminum kickplate. Each door has a pair of round aluminum bars placed at arm level to allow patrons to push the door open; these are set at a slight angle so that the two southernmost doors, which are hinged to face each other, have slightly inclined push bars that meet in the middle, forming a shallow chevron shape when closed. The third door is separated from the other two by its frame and its push bars are set at the same angle, rising toward the ticket booth at the center. The single historic door on the opposite side of the ticket booth is a mirror image of the door previously described; a pair of matched doors on this side, presumably identical to those described, were replaced in recent years by a non-historic door and sidelight installed to permit wheelchair access to the theater’s lobby. An inset doorway leading to the second floor adjoins the storefront pier adjacent to the door described on the northerly end of the facade, while the window at the southerly end, beyond the historic set of doors, which historically functioned as a small confectionery stand, has been covered with painted plywood. The interior of the theater has undergone some alterations; Art Deco sconces and chandeliers do remain from the late 1930s renovation. The original shallow stage is still extant, as are many of the original metal theater chairs.