For over a century, the Fox Theatre, originally built as the Star Theatre in 1917 by Paul Krier, has been a cornerstone of Walsenburg's entertainment scene. Designed by the renowned architectural firm of I.H. and W.M. Rapp, it featured a striking design with a decorative brick parapet and a canopy adorned with ironwork and lightbulbs. The theatre's evolution saw it hosting vaudeville shows, installing a Wurlitzer pipe organ in 1923, and transitioning into a cinema. The Valencia Theatre was renamed in 1929 with an Iberian-Moorish interior, and it was later acquired by the Fox West Coast Theatre Corporation and remodeled in Art Deco style in 1941. Despite closing in 1987 and enduring maintenance challenges, the building was revived through community efforts and is now operated by the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation under a long-term agreement with Huerfano County. The theatre's historic charm remains intact at 715 Main Street, with its distinct architecture and iconic marquee.

Paul Krier, the last manager of the original Star, had a new Star Theatre built at 715 Main Street, which opened on July 24, 1917. Star Theatre was designed by the Trinidad firm of I.H. and William M. Rapp for Paul Krier in 1916. The Walsenburg World reported:

“Besides being a high-class picture show-house, the Star is now Walsenburg’s largest and best-equipped hall for plays, vaudeville, or conventions.” A Wurlitzer Hope-Jones pipe organ was installed in 1923. In July 1929, talking pictures were introduced, the interior was redecorated into a Spanish theme, and it was renamed the Valencia in August. One month later, the Fox West Coast Theatre Corp. purchased the theatre, and the name changed to Fox Valencia. 1941, the building was thoroughly remodeled with an Art Deco facade and became the Fox. A gala celebration was held on August 13, 1941, with the showing of an Abbott and Costello film, In The Navy. Frank Piazza leased the theatre in 1954, later purchased it, and closed it in 1987.

“The Fox Theatre’s early years” by Nancy Christofferson

Around the end of January 1959, the Huerfano World announced the sale of the historic Fox Theatre by Paul Krier to Frank Piazza. While the information was published previous to the actual sale, Piazza did indeed lease the theater at that time and eventually purchased it. Piazza had a long history with the theater himself, having started work at one as a door opener.

Krier said he had entered the theater business in 1910 in the old Walsen and Levy store near the corner of Seventh and Main Streets. At least his brother Lucien was a theater owner then, proved by the fact he and his partner (and even their piano player!) were actually arrested for running a moving picture show without a license. This was the Star Theater, and it had competition from the McCormick family’s theater, the Huerfano, across the street, and the Otto in the former Mazzone building at Sixth and Main. Walsenburg loved her entertainment and moving pictures filled in the boring times between the coming of theatrical troupes and circuses.

That the Star was a popular feature on that corner was illustrated by the businesses surrounding it – the Star Barber Shop, Star Confectionery, Star Garage, Star Grocery, Star Pool Hall, and the ubiquitous Star Drug just kitty-cornered across the street.

In 1917, Krier built an all-new, all modern (for the time) building to house his moving picture theater. This was the large brick and concrete building we know today, located at 715 Main, or just a few doors south of its previous location. The Star building underwent several remodelings, taking on an Art Deco façade and becoming the Fox Valencia in 1929. In 1937 a new marquee with neon lights was added and in 1941 the new one and a half story high FOX sign went up. The former yellow with black, green, and orange trim paint job of 1927 was replaced with blue and white, which in turn gave way to pink in 1950.

The Fox Theater was affiliated with the Fox Theatre Corporation, which itself operated under several names. Krier was credited with being the first theater owner in Colorado to affiliate with the company.

Krier’s original Star could, and did, seat 700 people, with the balcony holding 300 of them. Through the years, the seating was replaced with larger chairs, and the capacity lowered. The space was used to enlarge the lobby and concession stand, the restrooms, and office.

After so many years ramrodding the theater, Krier gradually turned more of his attention to his other interests and hired managers to take day-to-day control.

Once Piazza had taken over ownership, he had the marquee updated and moved the front entrance doors and snack bar. He modernized the heating system. He must have enjoyed running a theater because, in 1962, he built the Trail Drive-in out on Highway 160 west of Walsenburg. Alas, before it was even completed, one of Huerfano’s famous little breezes stripped the framework off and almost a year later, another one toppled the $12,000 screen. This was replaced with a larger one of 3,200 square feet before the drive-in season started.

Piazza and his wife Lena usually opened the Trail around the first of May when the weather allowed and closed in September. Then he moved the movies into town and the Fox was opened for the winter. The drive-in was closed in the mid-1980s, and the screen removed in 2002.

Since the early 1950s, Walsenburg parents and business leaders had been searching for something or somewhere to entertain the young people of the community. Several youth centers had opened and closed their doors despite heroic efforts on the part of teens themselves and support organizations and businesses. In 1992, a core group then belonging to the Optimist Club took over the project, and through hard work, donations, and grants bought and once again updated the old Fox Theatre. They called it the Youth Center Theatre.

This building houses more than movie productions; it houses memories of childhood in free Christmas films for “tots” of the 1930s through the ‘50s, first dates, girls' nights out, and family outings to witness not only Hollywood’s output but local talent and minstrel shows, theatrical, musical, and dance productions, fashion shows, and concerts. The theatre represents an ongoing source of entertainment for, hopefully, generations to come, just as it has for the previous (and current) generations.

Huerfano County presents breathtaking scenery, fascinating history, and many recreational options.

Huerfano County was one of the 17 original counties when Colorado became a state in 1876. The word “Huerfano” (War-Fe-No) translated means “Orphan.” It was named after the lone volcanic butte 7 miles north of Walsenburg on I-25.

Walsenburg is located on I-25 and US 160, with access to Colo. Hwy 10. As the county seat, it has served as a trade center for the county and region. Walsenburg is named after Fred Walsen, an early pioneer who opened the first coal mines. The town grew quickly following the discovery of coal. Over 50 mines were developed. The mines began closing in the 1950s and are no longer in operation.

La Veta is 17 miles west of Walsenburg on Highway 12. Amidst nature’s great beauty, La Veta offers a refreshing small-town quality of life combined with the sophistication of art galleries, theater, dining, a fitness center, musical entertainment, and shopping. Highway 12 is known for its scenic beauty and is called the Highway of Legends, National Forest, and Colorado Scenic Byway. It makes its way through the Spanish Peaks Wilderness area, ending in Trinidad. Travelers are treated to the Spanish Peaks mountain ranges, the Cuchara River, ranches, rolling meadows, lakes, tall aspen and pine trees, and various wildlife.

As you continue south on Highway 12, travelers will come to the village of Cuchara. Originally settled by farmers, it became a retreat area with breathtaking beauty at over 8,000 feet.

Gardner is located northwest of Walsenburg on Highway 69. It is a quaint, ranching community popular for hiking, fishing, and backpacking along the Huerfano River and the east side of Blanca Peak.

Lathrop State Park is just 3 miles west of Walsenburg and offers camping, fishing, boating, and water skiing.

Huerfano County is also home to three National Forest Wilderness Areas. Other recreation in the immediate area includes hiking and fishing in the national forest's high mountain lakes and streams, mountain biking, camping, horseback riding, and golf at Grandote Peaks and Walsenburg golf courses. Huerfano County is the eastern “gateway” to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in the San Luis Valley.