Diann Admire- Preserving the History of the Jewel of Downtown
Diann Admire grew up going to movies and taking dance lessons at what is now the Avalon Theatre. She and her husband, Gene, had their first date in high school there in 1947. Since opening its doors in 1923 for vaudeville performances, the theatre has played an important role in valley history and local lives. Yet no one had kept a written account of it until Admire stepped forward.
“I’m introduced as a historian, but that sounds so old!” says Admire, 85. “I’ve been told it’s better to be a historian than history.”
Admire’s own history in the area dates to 1892, when her grandmother arrived in Grand Junction. In 1917, she bought a house at 12th and Grand, where both Admire and her mother were raised. Admire’s mother was the first woman on the original city planning commission that worked on Operation Foresight, the innovative downtown redevelopment project.
Admire credits the positive changes she’s seen in Grand Junction over the years to diligent planning.“We need to keep a high quality of life in Grand Junction, otherwise we’re just another city,” she says. “The Avalon is the jewel of downtown. I became determined to help keep the lights on.”
In the early 90s she feared the building (then, the abandoned Cooper Theater) would be torn down. As her way of helping the cause, Admire spent countless hours researching its history. She was amazed to learn about Walter Walker’s passion for the theatre he founded, and the famous live performers like Ethel Barrymore and John Philip Sousa who had graced its stage. Old programs and posters now displayed ot the Avalon’s walls are due to her research, and she is the sole creator of the Avalon’s 10 volumes of scrapbooks.
For the past 14 years, Admire has been active on the Avalon Foundation Board, which drove the Cornerstone Project, raising 9.2 million dollars in less than four years to renovate the Avalon. She has personally written nearly 1,000 thank-you notes to donors of 30 cents to 1 million dollars.
“It was my purpose to see this Cornerstone Project completed, to show that we could get it done when so many said we couldn’t,” she says. “I’m really proud of what we’ve done and give credit to the community.”
To Admire, the Avalon’s renovation illustrates the warmth of the past and the sophistication of the future — the heart and heritage of downtown, and a place for everyone in the community to enjoy.