Renovations are in the works for the former Charleston movie theatre
by Kaitlyn Conrad/Photo & Web Editor
On 705 Monroe Ave. in Charleston stands the Will Rogers Theatre. Some of those from the area may remember when the theatre still played movies and some of those from the older generation may even remember when the Will Rogers was a popular place to go. In recent days, the theatre may not be in current service to the public, but plans are underway to restore it to its original grandeur.
Tim Burke of Hollywood, CA, and Jim and Katie Troccoli of Ottawa, IL purchased the Will Rogers Theatre in November 2011 after it was closed by AMC Entertainment Inc. in the summer of 2010.
Burke and the Troccoli’s are not only working on restoring the theatre, but they are also working on making that area of Monroe Ave. a community social location.
There are 5 storefronts to the right of the theatre’s entrance and have been used as a theatre dumping ground for storage. Katie Troccoli’s plan is that as they restore the theatre and the storefronts and to start looking for businesses to rent three of the five storefronts. Troccoli says that this will create jobs and that these storefronts will provide needed foot traffic to the theatre.
The rented income from the storefronts will also help move the theatre restoration project forward.
“The Will Rogers Theatre is part of a great community. Many people have fond memories of time spent at the location. I believe the theatre can be a vital part of downtown Charleston once again,” Troccoli remarks.
But restoring a historic Art Deco building is no easy and cheap task. Since the building has been listed on the Landmarks Illinois Ten Most Endangered Places and is on the National Register of Historic Places as listed by the United States Department of Interior, bringing the Will Rogers back to what it was like in 1938 as well as meeting today’s building codes is pretty costly.
Troccoli has set up a fundraising website where anyone can donate to the Will Rogers cause. The donation website is http://www.gofundme.com/49rb4o.
There are many things to be done before the building is ready but one of the first obstacles was to get the blueprints. At the 100th Anniversary of the Charleston Riot, the blueprints were on display in the theatre lobby.
“We have a lot to do,” Troccoli points out.
Troccoli also says that anyone should feel free to contact her with any questions or suggestions.
Everyone is encouraged to join the Facebook group “Save the Will Rogers Theatre” to keep updated on what is going on.