The Newman Block is a three-story sandstone building in the 800 block of Main Avenue. Constructed from 1891 to 1892 by Charles Newman, the building is Richardsonian Romanesque in style. The original tenant of the Newman Block was Smelter National Bank, which lasted only five years before succumbing to the aftereffects of the Silver Crash of 1893. Durango National Bank had their turn in the building, too, but they ended up closing. In 1928, the building was converted into the Kiva Theater. 20th Century Fox bought the theater in the 1930s, where movies were shown into the 1980s. Since the 1990s, the building has offered retail spaces on the first floor and office space on the upper stories.
Backstory and Context
The Newman Block building was named after Charles Newman. Newman was a prosperous pharmacist who owned four pharmacies with his brothers-in-law. As a discoverer of the Swansea Mine in Rico, he added to his personal fortune, and represented the area in the Colorado Senate. Newman's drugstore in Durango went on to become S.G. Wall Druggist.
The building's elevator was a newfangled curiosity in the 1890s; people would come to the building just to ride the big-city contraption. Special bank vaults were constructed into the second and third floors of the building for the original tenant, Smelter National Bank, who went belly up in 1897. Durango National Bank was a later tenant of the building, but it, too, ended up crashing, even though it was started by William J. Palmer of the D&RGW Railroad Company (the Civil War general and founder of Colorado Springs) and Alexander Hunt, a Colorado Territorial Governor.
The building housed a bank on the first floor in the south half in 1910, with a hardware store in the north half, along Main Avenue. The second and third stories were office space, according to the 1910 Sanborn map of the town.
The building was converted in 1928 into the Kiva Theater and was bought by 20th Century Fox in the 1930s. It served as an indoor movie theater through the 1980s. Actor Jimmy Stewart was made an honorary mayor of town in 1952 in a ceremony at the theater, while filming the movie "Naked Spur." A major fire occurred on the block in 1974, burning down six buildings mid-block, but the building survived.
In the late 1980s, the theater closed and the building was converted into ground floor retail space with offices upstairs. Newman Block was the first individual building to be listed on the National Register from Durango; it was added in 1980. The first floor has housed a number of businesses, including a florist and dress shops, since the 1990s. One current tenant is The Sparrow Mercantile clothing shop. It has been called the fanciest office building in Durango. The round turret at the southeast corner of the structure once held a flagpole. The tall sheet metal parapet is decorated with swags and wreaths.
Butler, Ann. "'Bridge to the past,' Durango's buildings have rich histories." Durango Herald (Durango, CO) June 17th 2014, Local/Region News sec.
Norman, David. Downtown, Durango Then and Now. January 1st 2020. Accessed March 5th 2020. https://www.durango-thenandnow.com/down-town.
Wells, Marjorie J.. NRHP Nomination Form for Main Avenue Historic District, Durango. National Register. Washington, DC. National Park Service, 1980.