What was once a crown jewel in the Fort Worth Stockyards is about to get a second life. The New Isis Theater, named for the Egyptian Goddess, has been shuttered and decaying since the 1980s but its history goes way back to 1914.
Since it shut down more than 30 years ago, it's passed through a series of owners who have not stopped the decay. But now a former drama teacher and partners have bought it, with plans to restore and re-brand it: the Downtown Cowtown at the Isis.
If Fort Worth is still the ‘Gateway to the West,’ then it's the Stockyards that take you back there, and to go way back, step inside the Isis.
The roof is now caving in and there’s a massive pile of debris in the middle of the theater. But before its decline, there was a lot of life inside.
"What we want to do is bring it back to the 1920s and 30s back to its heyday," said new owner Jeffrey Smith.
He’s the man with the vision to restore the theater. A former drama teacher, he's had his eye on the building for 20 years and wants to bring it back with as much original character as possible.
"And this was underneath again layers of pieces," Smith said, pointing to a western mural uncovered on one wall.
Peeling layers reveal ornate details all the way up to the ceiling. To Smith, it all sets the tone for what you'll see on stage.
"You get in and you start working your way up and then there she is," Smith said, gesturing to where a giant screen will go.
There's enough space for 500 seats to watch small concerts, theater productions and old western movies to take audiences back in time.
"When I tell them this is what we're doing and the Isis is coming back, they get so excited and they get chills talking about the memories of the experiences they had when they were here," Smith said.
The full restoration will cost several million dollars but the Fort Worth native says he and his partners are committed for the long haul.
"This is it,” Smith said. “I mean this is what we want to do. That's what makes us different. We're owning it, we're running it, we're building it and we're thriving with that."
Smith has already brought in a contractor and an architect. He hopes to have renovations complete by Christmas of next year.
It's well-timed with redevelopment all over the Stockyards, including new hotels opening in the coming months.