PAWV is pleased to announce that it is expanding its heritage tourism initiative, the West Virginia Historic Theatre Trail. In addition to having just added 6 significant theaters to the Trail, PAWV’s recent receipt of a $1000 mini-grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council will allow the organization to further promote the Trail.
The West Virginia Historic Theatre Trail is a statewide thematic tour of operational, historic theaters, encompassing both cinemas and live performance venues. All of the Trail’s theaters are listed in, or have been officially determined eligible for, the National Register of Historic Places – the official list of the nation’s historic places deemed worthy of preservation by the National Park Service. The Trail promotes the rehabilitation and sustainable operation of our state’s historic theaters for the enjoyment of the public.
The Trail was born in 2010 following a 2007 Preserve America grant award to the West Virginia Division of Culture and History’s State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), in partnership with PAWV, to develop statewide thematic tours to encourage heritage tourism in communities throughout the state. When it started, the Trail included 26 theaters across the state. By 2015, however, 4 Trail theaters had closed, and staff at various other historic theaters in West Virginia had been asking PAWV about how to be added to the Trail. During 2015 and early 2016, PAWV requested and received applications from additional historic theaters across the state. After using state heritage trail criteria to decide which to accept or reject, PAWV recently added 6 theaters to the Trail. The new members include:
- the Alban Arts and Conference Center (in St. Albans, Kanawha County);
- the Lincoln Theater (in New Martinsville, Wetzel County);
- the McCoy’s Grand Theatre (in Moorefield, Hardy County);
- the Strand Theatre (in Moundsville, Marshall County);
- the Ritz Theatre (in Hinton, Summers County);
- the Summit Players Theatre (in Bluefield, Mercer County)
The Trail now encompasses 28 members, spanning 21 of West Virginia’s 55 counties. For quotes from several of the organizations and agencies that operate or utilize the Trail’s new members, please see the end of this press release.
The Trail’s main public presence is a website run by PAWV (https://wvhistorictheaters.com/). It contains informational pages on each member theater; overarching Google Maps and theater trip itineraries, broken up by region of the state; historic theater resources (such as books, articles, and related organizations); links to the Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) for each theater’s area, etc. The Trail’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/wvhistorictheaters/) is where PAWV staff share member theaters’ events and post relevant news articles, press releases about the Trail, etc. PAWV also promotes the Trail and its member theaters through rack cards distributed to member theaters and their CVBs. Another marketing tool has been Trail interpretive signage, which PAWV presented to each original member theater to display inside. Those signs contain site-specific historical and architectural information, as well as information about the Trail itself.
Having added the 6 new member theaters, PAWV plans to launch a major promotional campaign for the Trail, utilizing the $1000 WV Humanities Council mini-grant funds. PAWV has already purchased a short, memorable URL and has updated the existing Trail website to include the new members throughout. Next, PAWV will design and print various promotional materials. Those will include interpretive signage for each new member, updated rack cards, and a portable, retractable banner showcasing the Trail.
Overall, these new promotional materials will serve as a valuable outreach tool – educating the public (both locals and tourists) about the Trail and its member theaters. Specifically, the rack cards will alert people that the member theaters exist and are open for visiting, offering entertainment in their communities. The interpretive signs and the banner will go more in-depth, helping to inform and educate viewers about the history, sociocultural importance, architectural significance, and historic preservation of the state’s operational, historic theaters (not only individually but as a group). Additionally, since many of the Trail’s theaters have been reopened after periods of closure or are adaptive reuses of other building types (such as historic churches), these promotional efforts will help demonstrate how historic preservation has been a successful revitalization and economic development tool in West Virginia.
Quotes regarding new Trail members are below.
Lincoln Theatre – Beverly Gibb (Director, New Martinsville Parks and Recreation Department): “We are very excited to have New Martinsville’s Lincoln Theater on the WV Historic Theatre Trail. The Lincoln hosts numerous musicals, variety shows, recitals, and children’s productions throughout the year. It is rewarding to see our downtown filled with vehicles when the theater is being used. The New Martinsville Parks and Recreation Commission and the Lincoln Theater Restoration Council take great pride in the renovations that have been made inside and out of our beautiful venue.”
Lincoln Theatre – Donna Earley (Administrative Coordinator, ArtsLink): “ArtsLink, the arts council for Wetzel and Tyler Counties, uses the Lincoln Theater in New Martinsville quite often for our events. In fact, coming up this summer will be a one-week residency by Missoula Children’s Theater. All of our artists comment on how lovely our old theater is and how happy they are to perform there.”
Strand Theatre – Jana Jarrett (Programming Director): “The Strand Theatre is a local hub in the heart of historic Jefferson Avenue. It was the first steel building [in town] and home to even more first dates. The Strand’s reopening begins a whole new window of opportunity for the arts and entertainment in Moundsville, WV. With just a few seasons behind us we are getting ready to grow in even more exciting ways! Being a part of a community that is in need of revitalizing, we hope to make our location the center of the rejuvenation.”
Summit Players Theatre – Sherri Snider (President, Summit Players): “The Summit Players Theatre is a beautiful building and, from my experience, there are so many people who are unaware that it even exists. So, with it being on the Trail, I am in hopes that it will make people aware and spike their interest to come to the theatre – that they will see for themselves what is there, and its potential.”
Summit Players Theatre – Sue Jackson (Project Coordinator): “Summit Players’ long-term commitment to providing a quality theatre experience to the area is a factor in the theatre’s inclusion on the Trail. The honor of being listed on the West Virginia Historic Theatre Trail recognizes many years of hard work by a committed group of volunteers who have toiled so diligently to preserve and develop this historically vital community asset. It’s such a wonderful opportunity! This Summit Players Theatre building has been such an integral part of Bluefield’s history, and now folks all over the state, and beyond, can get to know what a true gem of a theatre we have right here in our town! We always want to increase interest in our efforts; being part of the Historic Theatre Trail will help us do that very thing.”