May I Have This Dance?

Ad in Cañon City Daily Record, January 12, 1926

Advertisement in Cañon City Daily Record, January 12, 1926

This was the ad promoting the Annex Hall in 1926 when it was a dance and event hall. The Annex building was built in 1903 by Lyman Robison who made his money in mining investments in Leadville. An article in the Cañon City Clipper on June 12, 1903 described the grandeur of the new building. The stone came from the Kerr quarry near Cotopaxi and the Roman tile between the two stories was manufactured at the Cañon City Brick & Tile Plant. The six granite columns came from Quincy, Massachusetts. Local architect Charles C. Rittenhouse designed this building among many others in town including the Cañon City Public Library at 516 Macon Ave., the Frank L. Smith Building at 501 Main St., and the First Presbyterian Church at 701 Macon Avenue.

The first store to occupy the bottom space of the Annex was Bethel Company that sold dry goods, primarily clothing. The second floor seemed to have started life as a dance and event hall. Around 1910, Professor Tom Taylor the organist for the Episcopal Church, organized an orchestra to play for society dances. In 1916, Schembeck’s Novelty Society Orchestra played at the Annex and claimed to be “much imitated – never equaled”.

Advertisement, March 30, 1916; Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center Archives

Advertisement, March 30, 1916; Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center Archives

In the 1920s, Ray Hawes became the proprietor of the Annex and the band leader. Also an artist, Hawes painted four landscapes for the walls of the Annex. He operated the Annex until 1937. It continued to serve as a music hall along with the added addition of being used as a studio to teach music lessons by Ailene Frey for a few years in the 1940s. The building was still owned by the Robison family and they continued to lease it out as an event center until 1958. David Robison, Lyman’s son, then began using the second floor for his rental properties and insurance business until 1960.

In 1962, the use of the 2nd floor changed when a fire caused significant damage to Gambles Store which sold home goods on the first floor. Gambles moved upstairs and remodeled the entire building into a three-story department store in 1963. It wasn’t until 1981 that the second floor was remodeled back to an event center when it was purchased by the Yarbrough’s. They brought in lights from the Olin Hotel in Denver and added the old back bar from the Chesterfield Club in Rockvale. The landscapes done by Ray Hawes in the 1920s returned to decorate the walls. Since then, the Annex has been used as a theater, a ballroom, a nightclub, and a mystery theater. The wood framed mirrors and the wrought iron railings were added in 2000 at the same time the skylights were uncovered and the wooden floors refinished.

If only these walls could talk!

500 Block of Main Street, Annex Building (505-507) under construction, ca. 1903; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

500 Block of Main Street, Annex Building (505-507) under construction, ca. 1903; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

There may be another cause to start dancing at the annex once again this Tuesday!

There will be a “Watch Party” at the Annex second floor on Tuesday, Feb. 12th starting at 6 am to see if our own Cañon City is one of the top five towns chosen for the” Small Business Revolution”.

The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.

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