Preservation Alliance of West Virginia would like to share about our 2014 Historic Preservation Award winners, beginning with the “Most Significant Save of a Historic Site,” The Capitol Theatre in Wheeling, West Virginia.
The Capitol Theatre as recently as 2009 was listed as a West Virginia Endangered Historic Property that might be lost. The theatre was closed by its previous owner in 2007 after being cited for twenty-three life safety fire code violations.
After several feasibility studies revealed the theatre was still a viable downtown economic and entertainment property, a group of Wheeling area nonprofits joined together to purchase, restore and reopen the theatre. In September 2009, the Capitol Theatre reopened and has proven to be a significant tourism driver to the downtown Wheeling area. An average of 57-thousand people have attended each year since 2009 enjoying both regional and nationally-popular performances year round. The positive economic impact equates to millions of dollars.
The rehabilitation has been a phased project. Firstly, all the public safety issues where addressed including a new fire escape and miles of fire suppression pipes throughout the huge facility. The Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau secured a loan to purchase and bring the theatre up to code. Thanks to the support from other non-profit agencies funding was made available to bring the theatre into ADA compliance. Thanks to the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation an elevator was installed to reach the theatre’s ballroom on the second story allowing many people to access this space for the first time in the theatre’s 86 year history. The same agency was instrumental in securing a Save our Treasures grant from the federal government to restore the façade of this striking building. WNHAC also serves as an advocate and offers hands on guidance in preservation. The success of this partnership between the Wheeling CVB and WNHAC has also stimulated significant private investment into the Capitol Theatre rehabilitation project. More than a million dollars was raised to install new seats, carpeting and stage curtains inside the beautiful theatre returning it to its grandeur of the day it opened in 1928. This ongoing multi-year project has brought forth results that not only persevere an important historical structure but has demonstrated the power of partnerships for the common good of the community.
Congratulations again to this outstanding example of historic preservation.