Mayor Williams Praises Gov. Tomblin, State Legislature Donation for Keith Albee Roof; $40,000 Need for Additional Matching Grant

Updated 1 year ago by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Keith Albee Interior during Mayor Steve Williams Inaugural
Keith Albee Interior during Mayor Steve Williams Inaugural
Photo by Glen Berry
Illustrating his pledge to “work together” with business, labor, Democrats and Republicans, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. The  House of Delegates and the State Senate have each donated $100,000 to replace the roof on the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center.

Bids on replacement of the 1928 Thomas Lamb Spanish Moorish atmospheric theater will be opened Feb. 1.

David Tyson , co—president of the Keith Albee Foundation along with State Senator Bob Plymale (D-Wayne) explained in a Herald Dispatch interview that both met with Gov. Tomblin about three months ago.

“This is a significant step in the restoration of the theater,” Tyson said by e-mail.  “We greatly appreciate the confidence of Governor Tomblin and the West Virginia Legislature in helping our theater reach its goal. Without the hard work of Senator Bob Plymale,  this would not be happening.”

He specifically thanked House Speaker (Rick) Thompson and Senate President  (Jeff) Kessler.

Sen. Plymale told the Herald-Dispatch, “I always felt if we did not have some assistance with the roof, we would not be able to do other things that community members said they would help us with on the inside of the building.”

Regarding the Governor's assistance to the Keith Albee, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams told HNN: "I am pleased that the Governor saw fit to provide funding or the roof of the Keith Albee. The Keith Albee Performing Arts Center is the Crown Jewel on our downtown. It's restoration is critical to the advancement of Downtown Huntington as a destination center. Senator Bob Plymale's leadership in gaining the funding from the Governor as well as the House and Senate can never be understated. We are fortunate to have someone of his stature looking out for Huntington's interests.The governors announcement caps off a huge week for 4th Avenue. The Governor's announcement last week of a $500,000 grant for our Old Main Corridor Project brings a total of over $800,000 in assistance from the State of West Virginia for downtown Huntington."

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin who announced $100,000 Keith Albee donation photographed at Cultural Center after inauguration
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin who announced $100,000 Keith Albee donation photographed at Cultural Center after inauguration
Photo by Glen Berry

Joe Murphy, president of Trifecta Productions which spearheaded the sign restoration drive, told HNN, "We still have a long way to go, but it appears that everyone still feels that the Keith is as valuable to this community as it was the day it opened!"

The Foundation could  receive a $102,984  matching grant from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. About $62,000 of the funds for the match have been raised but some of that money has been used for certain already completed repairs. The Foundation remains about $41,000 short on the match.

In a prior published interview Edward Tucker explained that in any building rehabilitation the roofing needs come first. “Once water seeps inside and other materials start to deteriorate , the problems start to compound.”

As an example of Tucker’s advice, one need only look at the conditions of the Keith Albee’s sister theater in Flushing, New York, which has sat untouched since the 1990s. Known as the RKO Keith, the roof leaks have crumbled the ornate interior  plaster and  destroyed other  historic features. Currently, New York preservationists hope to preserve the lobby of the building, however, due to inattention, the auditorium will have to be razed. For pictures and details of other not preserved theater's in other city's, check out photographer, Matt Lambros' site, http://afterthefinalcurtain.net .

Ravaged interior of Flushing RKO Keith, which did not have its roof repaired.
Ravaged interior of Flushing RKO Keith, which did not have its roof repaired.
File Photo, http://afterthefinalcurtain.net, Matt Lambros

When the Foundation had the Keith Albee evaluated , a consultant called it one of the best preserved theaters in the United States.

Unlike its sister in Flushing, Huntington's Keith remained open showing motion pictures thanks to the sacrifices of the Hyman Family. They converted it into a four screen complex to boost revenue and keep it operating. Derek Hyman, president of the Greater Huntington Theater Corp., donated the building and contents to the Marshall Foundation. The Foundation had already been given the land on which it sets. The Hyman's had a 99-year-lease.

They closed the theater about a year after Marquee's 16-screen Pullman Square complex opened. A few weeks prior to that, they shut down the Camelot 1 & 2, formerly The Palace, and now the site of the Jeslyn Performing Arts Center. They operated the Cinema IV showing second run and art films until its closure.It is now a church.

Interior of not preserved Flushing , NY, RKO Keith, the sister theater of Huntington's jewel which open six days after our movie palace.
Interior of not preserved Flushing , NY, RKO Keith, the sister theater of Huntington's jewel which open six days after our movie palace.
File Photo, http://afterthefinalcurtain.net, Matt Lambros

Trifecta Productions has produced a short fund raising documentary on the Keith Albee which was shown before the inauguration of Mayor Steve Williams. Trifecta's Joe Murphy hopes to expand the production to a full hour.

"We have came together as a community and preserve that living history," Murphy said speaking of the Keith Albee.
"Hopefully, this is just the first documentary made about the Keith Albee. Maybe in a hundred years, they will be telling the story at the 200 year anniversary of the KA. Wouldn’t that be fantastic."

Balcony RKO Keith's  NY
Balcony RKO Keith's NY
Photo Courtesy of Matt Lambros, www.afterthefinalcurtain.net

As for preserving the 1928 movie palace, Murphy explained, "We believe if someone can keep even one shining example of what a great city we were , then,  all of us believe wholeheartedly that it’s not so far of a reach to say , if we could do that then and have a beautiful place that everyone went for culture and amusement then, why can we not take such pride in community today? We are very excited about what’s happening in Huntington and [the Keith Albee] is the center of Huntington."

 

 

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