Historic Nomar Theater among buildings to be auctioned off in N. Wichita

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 10:04 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A building many Latinos in Wichita consider a historical landmark is up for sale. The Nomar Theater in the 2100 block of North Market Street is among buildings to be auctioned off at noon Friday, April 9. Ahead of the auction, Eyewitness News spoke with people who grew up in the north Wichita neighborhood and are hopeful the theater’s history is preserved after the sale.

Angela Martinez and Martin Garcia grew up in north Wichita and say the neighborhood near 21st Street North and Broadway. They say it’s a neighborhood that has been marked for generations with a lot of history and culture.

“My parents, my grandparents came here from Mexico to work for the railroad and my other grandparents came to work at the meatpacking plant,” Martinez said.

It was a similar start in Wichita for Garcia’s family.

“My great grandfather, like Angela’s worked for the railroad as well, and even worked at the meatpacking plant like many Mexican families did at the time,” Garcia said.

Martinez and Garcia said the Nomar Theater is special for them and many others who grew up in Wichita’s Latino community.

“It’s very dear to us that this area maintain a certain degree of cultural heritage, and landmarks like (the Nomar Theater) are to be preserved,” Martinez said.

J Basham, one of five brothers selling the property, said they recognize the significance of the theater, but pointed out that it “is in really bad shape.”

“It was very historic to the community over there, but also for my dad. He grew up very close to there,” Basham said. “He used to go to the movies there every weekend.”

Basham said his father has died and while the family decided to sell the properties, they, like the community, would like to see the theater’s history preserved.

“My hope is somebody can buy it, a group can buy it (and) get it on (the) registry for historic places because historically, it’s eligible for that,” he said. “Try to get some grant money, go there and just totally restore it.”

That’s a similar hope for Martinez and Garcia.

“We’re hoping that whoever busy but building from the Bashams will choose to preserve it as a theater or a cultural hub for our community, a performance theater or maybe even a center for the arts,” Garcia said.

“But we just want to maintain the heritage and the culture of our area, while creating economic pool opportunities for everyone. That’s what I want to see,” Martinez said.

Ahead of Friday’s auction at noon, there is a plan for a peaceful rally at 10 a.m. to demonstrate the neighborhood’s hope that the Nomar Theater will be historically preserved.

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