“It’s not good because it’s old, it’s old because it’s good.” ~ Anonymous
When Thomas and I moved here and began venturing out into the world surrounding the Fairfield House, I quickly noticed the towns appeared to be frozen in time. Each boasts the quintessential main street lined with old brick architectural gems housing shops, restaurants, banks, and churches. One that immediately caught my attention was the Levoy Theatre, a magnificent building which was undergoing renovations. Two years ago, I drove by and was so shocked I had to pull over. During construction, two walls collapsed leaving a pile of rubble; however the building’s story didn’t end there. But let’s start at the beginning.
The Levoy Theatre was originally built in 1908 by the inventor of the “Roundabout”, today better known as the Ferris Wheel. William Sommers’ design and patent preceded Ferris’ by two years, but was made of wood, where Ferris’ design used steel.
In 1908, the Levoy was a small building that offered shows on the first floor and dancing on the second at the price of a mere nickel. A piano player and vocalist provided the score for each silent film. In 1912, the Levoy expanded to twice it’s original size followed by a second renovation in in 1927, resulting in one of the largest theaters in the east and featuring 11,000 lower level seats, 300 balcony seats, orchestra pit, $30,000 pipe organ, chandeliers and a lobby and mezzanine outfitted in marble. To describe it as grand, would be an understatement. Although silent films were still shown, the main attraction of this era was Vaudeville acts.
By 1930 ‘talkies’ had succeeded in killing Vaudeville. Warner Brothers assumed control of the Levoy and renovated it to function as a movie theater. The 1940s were the golden age for the Levoy. People went to the movies a few times a week and historic accounts tell of lines wrapping around the block. Besides radio and baseball, this was entertainment. It was not until the 1950s when each home had a TV in it’s living room that the slow, steady decline of the Levoy began. In 1970s additional competition arrived when the local mall was built in a neighboring town featuring a new multiplex cinema.
Lack of business meant lack of funds for the much needed upkeep of the now deteriorating building. In 1974, City Hall closed the Levoy down due to lack of substantial improvements and it remained vacant and in limbo for almost four decades until Joey Pierce Jr. made saving the Levoy his goal in life. He formed the Levoy Theater Preservation Society and the Levoy was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. Sadly Joe died before seeing his dream realized, but the torch was passed to the community.
Due to the amount of structural decline and the wall collapse, it was decided a renovation, not restoration would be completed. Fifteen months after the Levoy’s fall, it was reincarnated to its earlier life of the 1920s. The Levoy Theatre now operates as a performing arts center. Thomas and I recently saw the Marshall Tucker Band there and have tickets for the Gin Blossoms!
Additional images of the Levoy Theater including the interior and renovation process can be seen here.
Now for the giveaway, the winner, picked by Random Generator is:
Sherry (sherry-blessingsfromournest.blogspot): Submitted on 2013/01/07 at 2:28 pm: “Some great additions to your Christmas decorations. I should have taken a few pictures of the new ornaments and decorations we aquired this year. Especially the #1 grandma cupcake ornament from our grandson. I always enjoy my visits here.”
Please email me your address so I can send your 2013 Heart of the Home Calendar to you.