3 square feet and stopping traffic: Little Fox Theatre is no less fabulous

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Exquisite replica serving as a Little Free Library is stopping passersby in their tracks

With its graceful minarets and beautifully patterned brickwork, the Fox Theatre is one of Atlanta’s most recognizable and beloved landmarks.

Nothing could match the Fabulous Fox, right? Well, have you driven down Grant Park Place lately?

Grant Park resident Rick Schroeder took almost three years to build and paint, in exquisite detail, his own replica of the Fox Theatre, which stands as a Little Free Library in front of his home.

“It’s been fun to see the community’s reaction to it,” said Schroeder, a retired ad agency executive. “It gets a lot of double takes.”

Schroeder’s little Fox has the same sweeping spires and iconic red sign as the Fox in Midtown. A friend helped out by making tiny posters for the movie “Smokey and the Bandit” and music acts Blondie, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Prince (who performed for the last time at the real Fox days before he died in 2016).

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Schroeder also drilled hundreds of holes in the wee marquee, covered them with glass beads and put an LED light inside so his Fox lights up at night just like the one on Peachtree Street.

“It was quite a hit on Halloween,” he said.

The Fox Theatre, which opened on Christmas Day 1929, was originally built to be the Yaraab Temple Shrine Mosque. But cost overruns forced the Shriners to lease it to movie mogul William Fox, who added it to his national chain of movie theaters.

“William Fox said the theater was his gift to the city,” said Jamie Vosmeier, the Fox’s vice president for sales and marketing. “Here, Rick Schroeder is giving a gift to his neighborhood. We are humbled and honored he would think so much of the Fox to create this amazing project. We love it.”

Vosmeier said it took under two years to complete construction of the 250,000-square-foot Fox, about a year less than it took Schroeder to build his 3-square-foot version.

Schroeder, 59, said he first thought of erecting a Little Free Library after hearing a segment about them on public radio in 2011. The next year, he unveiled his first masterpiece: a replica of the Plaza Theatre on Ponce de Leon Avenue.

Credit: Contr

Credit: Contr

The little Plaza Theatre library lasted six years. “They only hold up for so long in this weather,” he said.

Schroeder then decided to go to Midtown and look at the Fox Theatre. He took one photo after another.

“When I looked at it in person, I thought, ‘No, it is way too complicated,’” he said.

But when he got back home, he was determined to give it a try. It didn’t take more than a couple of months to build the structure. What took so much time was painting it, trying to make sure it was true to the real landmark, he said.

“Painting is not my thing,” he said. But ultimately his wife, Pat Berryhill, told him to give her a paint brush.

“She was instrumental in getting this to the finish line,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder became an accomplished carpenter thanks to his father, who recruited him to help build their garage when Schroeder was in elementary school. Schroeder was 14 when his father died, but his mother remarried a mailman who was a carpenter on the side.

Schroeder’s double lot is a testament to what he learned from both parents. Next to and behind his home are a gazebo, an arbor, an outdoor bar, wood flooring and an enclosure for their hot tub, all of which he built himself in the backyard.

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

“I often think of them when I’m doing these projects,” Schroeder said of his father and stepfather.

The coronavirus pandemic and his retirement in May helped give Schroeder time to complete various projects including his fabulous Fox. On a recent afternoon, a number of cars going up the street suddenly stopped so passengers could see it for themselves.

If they’d gotten out and opened the library’s doors, they could have helped themselves to books by John Grisham, Edward Rutherford and Malcolm Gladwell, among others.

“It’s really fun to watch the reactions of people passing by,” Schroeder said. “I feel really good about the way it turned out.”