Old Theater New Life

Cottrill’s Opera House aka The Sutton Theater is about to get a facelift. Most of the time when you think of a facelift you think of something being made to look younger or new, not the case for the theater.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAWork will begin on the theater some time the next two weeks to make the front look as original as possible.

The work is largely due to a grant from the National Park Services, Save America’s Treasures Grant for $150,000. The money, while not near enough to complete the project, will at least get the ball rolling (or in this case the reel turning). The outside front, ground floor will be seeing the work with theatre style doors being installed and pressed tin fascia. All work will be done to National Park Service specifications for historical restorations.

The word opera house is a misnomer as the building served more as a theater than it ever did an opera house. In its earliest days it was a vaudeville house and purportedly saw acts such as Jack Benny, George Burns and Gracie Allen, though this could not be confirmed. The building features a suspended balcony which allows for good views from any seat. The theater originally had 650 seats and there are plans for a state- of- the- art 425 seat ADA accessible theater . Currently the ground floor has been restored to include office spaces which are occupied by Green Rivers and the Tucker County Development Authority.

During previous and current restorative phases theatre “treasures” have been uncovered including some wonderful old silent movie posters that were being used for insulation. The posters now hang and can be viewed in the Development Authorities’ office. While the “treasures” have very little intrinsic value they do provide a glimpse into the past of the building.

The driving force behind all the work being accomplished is the Alpine Heritage Preservation group and the Tucker County Cultural District Authority. The TCCDA is a first of its kind Governor appointed group in West Virginia.

One of the project that the AHP is excited about is the “legacy project” where they are collecting people’s first hand memories and stories of the theater. One gentleman even pointed to a spot in the theater and said that was where he got his first kiss.

The TCCDA is credited with really re-energizing the efforts of raising funds to get work going again. They are starting a capital campaign to push projects for start-up capital funds with a target of $350,000. The funds would be used to get matching grants so that more big projects could be accomplished.

As with any project, every dollar counts and every dollar inches us closer to the goal. The group will be holding several fundraisers throughout the fall. The next one will be at The Purple Fiddle with several area musicians providing musical entertainment. The event will be Friday, September 5. Just as exciting, there will be another fundraiser the end of September which will be held in the Opera house itself. The event will be the first in the theater in a very long time. The group has other upcoming fundraisers slated for the fall.

For more information or to find out how you can help bring our own little theater back to life go to:

FaceBook- Cottrell’s Opera House, or contact them at: cottrillsoperahouse@gmail.com .

 

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