KMA Radio Station (and Mayfair Theater Auditorium)

North Elm Street
Shenandoah (Fair Oaks), IA 51601

Builder: Reuter Organ Co, Opus 270
Action: Electro-pneumatic

Notes: Opened in October 1927 as part of radio station KMA it was used as a studio, but also for movies. The 1,000-seat auditorium was designed in an Atmospheric/Moorish style, the work of architect John Eberson.

Henry Field’s response to this new throng of visitors was to build his own KFNF studio building - a one story Spanish stucco building at the south side of Henry Field Seed House Number 1. The new KFNF building featured an auditorium where visitors could sit in pew-style benches and view the broadcasts in the large draped studio through a plate glass window. A dining room and kitchen in the rear was used for serving coffee and sandwiches to visitors. Both stations soon installed grand pianos and large pipe organs in their studios for live music broadcasts.

Not to be outdone by his competitor, Earl May constructed an even larger and more elaborate auditorium studio across the street from his seed company headquarters. The massive Mayfair auditorium was decorated in a Moorish motif with two minaret towers. The auditorium seated 1,000 people, and the studio/stage was separated from the audience by a 7 x 22 ft. sheet of glass weighing three tons that could be lowered into place to provide sound isolation. It was thought at the time to be the largest single sheet of glass ever made. The theatre was decorated in the style of a Moorish garden, with miniature electric lights in the blue ceiling canopy giving the impression of a starry night sky. May’s investment in KMA now totaled $90,000 for the station and another $100,000 for the auditorium. His operating costs exceeded $1,000 a month with no advertising revenue. All of this was supported by his booming catalog seed business.

It was closed in 1963 and demolished in 1966.

Organ Historical Society as of 20.