Preservation, Road Trips

A lot of deterioration can happen to something neglected for ten years: Rochester’s Times Theater

This is the Times Theater, on the Michigan Road in Rochester, Indiana. At least, this was it in 2008, while it was still operating.

Times Theater

The Times showed movies for 90 years, but owners couldn’t afford a digital projector and had to close it in 2014. This marquee was already showing strong signs of rot in 2008…but look at it now.

Times Theater, Rochester

This poor old sign. Here’s a closer look, first 2008 and then 2018.

Times Theater sign
Times Theater, Rochester

Fortunately, a non-profit group has organized with a goal to restore and reopen the Times as an art and entertainment center for the community. Their Facebook page is here. Here’s hoping they can achieve their goals — and see this sign restored, if it’s not too late.

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.

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State Theater

Free movie
Canon PowerShot S95
2018

Our day trip up the Michigan Road ended in Logansport. The sun had not yet set when we reached town, but after we finished our dinner, it had.

It was the night of Light Up Logansport, their annual holiday parade. It had been years since I thought about this event. Eleven years, to be exact — I blogged then about being lost in a maze of closed streets, trying to pass through town to get home. A kindly cop let me cross a closed street and I was on my way.

This night, we parked our car beyond the parade route so we’d be sure not to get tied up in it. Walking back to our car took us right by the State Theater, which was all lit up for a free movie that night.

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Photography

single frame: Free movie

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Road Trips

The State Theater in Logansport

State Theater, Logansport

The State Theater has been a mainstay in Logansport, a northern Indiana town of about 18,000 residents, since 1940. In its heyday it was but one of several downtown theaters, but today it is the last that remains. And it looks mighty good.

State Theater, Logansport

It could easily have ended badly for the State. Several years ago the theater changed hands and became a live-music venue called the Shindig. The marquee’s STATE letters came down. Then that owner ran aground in his business. The theater’s future was uncertain until Kevin Burkett, who grew up in Logansport and worked as an editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, returned home to buy this theater.

Given that this theater is on the Michigan Road Historic Byway, I’ve driven past it many times and have made it my camera’s subject over and over. Here’s a 2009 photo I made while the marquee was lit.

State Theater, Logansport

Burkett has since become editor of the Logansport Pharos-Tribune. He since established a nonprofit organization, The State Theater Preservation Society, to own the theater and carry on the restoration work. But he remains heavily involved. Among the first things he did: restore the STATE letters to the marquee. They are reproductions, but he still has the originals.

While much work remains in the restoration, cosmetically the building appears to be in good condition. Here’s the box office.

State Theater, Logansport

Inside, the concession stand features a popcorn popper that dates to about 1948.

State Theater, Logansport

I got a tour thanks to the Historic Michigan Road Association having a board meeting here. Burkett was kind not only to project our logo onto the screen, but to offer free popcorn and soda. I didn’t properly thank him for the Diet Pepsi he gave me.

State Theater, Logansport

The theater’s fixtures really captured my attention. According to Burkett, when the building was made into a theater, craftsmen fabricated all of the lighting on the spot. They are all unique to this theater.

State Theater, Logansport
State Theater, Logansport
State Theater, Logansport
State Theater, Logansport
State Theater, Logansport

The lit wayfinding signs were presumably also fashioned on the premises. They all offer an Art Deco touch, but in some cases the original lettered glass was lost. Some of the replacements are crude. Here’s hoping that during restoration new ones can be made that match the originals.

State Theater, Logansport
State Theater, Logansport
State Theater, Logansport
State Theater, Logansport
State Theater, Logansport

The State’s first-run-film days remain in its past. Today, the venue continues to host concerts, and now also live theater. Local theater groups and other arts-related non-profits are invited to use the theater for free. That’s a mighty good deal for Logansport!

Here’s one last nighttime photo of the marquee, which I made in 2011.

State Theater, Logansport

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.

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Lafayette Theater

Lafayette Theater
Olympus XA
Agfa Vista 200
2017

Main Street in Lafayette, Indiana, is where the old Lafayette Road ends. It begins near downtown Indianapolis, and has since at least the 1830s brought travelers between these two Indiana cities.

If you’ve never walked this, Lafayette’s main drag, do. It’s a remarkable little downtown, much nicer than most Indiana cities of its size and history. Sure, you will find much nicer downtowns in Carmel and Fishers. But they are Johnny-come-latelys to the city scene, having grown large enough only in recent years to be considered cities (under Indiana law). And they are what they are only because of their proximity to Indianapolis. Lafayette was founded in 1825 and thrived without being any other city’s bedroom community. It has withstood the dramatic economic changes that have faced Indiana cities while remaining lovely and interesting.

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Film Photography

single frame: Lafayette Theater

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Preservation

The astonishingly beautiful Auditorium Theatre in Chicago

While Margaret and I were in Chicago last month we saw The Nutcracker as presented by the Joffrey Ballet. It was a lovely show, well produced and well danced. But I was blown away by the theater!

Auditorium Theatre, Chicago

If you could count them, you’d number more than 3,500 light bulbs in that arch. Bulbs were in those sockets upon the Auditorium Theater’s opening in 1889, not ten years after the carbon-filment bulb’s invention. To counteract all the heat those bulbs generated, an ice-based air-conditioning system was installed. This was the state of the theater art!

But let’s back up a little, to the experience of entering the theater. Our seat was on the second balcony, so up the stairs we went.

Auditorium Theatre, Chicago

Each landing had a unique tile pattern.

Auditorium Theatre, Chicago

Low ceilings and dim lighting created a closed-in feeling.

Auditorium Theatre, Chicago

It’s deliberate, so that entering the large and airy auditorium creates a feeling of having emerged into the open. And then there are all those glorious lights. It’s quite a rush the first time, let me tell you!

Auditorium Theatre, Chicago

All of the boxes were on the theater’s sides, as the architects wanted anyone who could afford a ticket, and not just the wealthy, to have great seats.

Auditorium Theatre, Chicago

I had concerns that our stage-left second-balcony seat would be so-so, but it offered a commanding view.

Auditorium Theatre, Chicago

The theater is part of a larger building that originally contained a hotel and offices. It was hoped that this building’s various uses would, together, keep it financially viable. It worked, for a while. But by the end of the 1920s the theater had run into financial trouble. It would have been demolished in the 1930s had the land not been worth less than what demolition was going to cost.

Auditorium Theatre, Chicago

The theater served during World War II to house, feed, and entertain servicemen. Much of the building’s ornate plaster work was covered; a bowling alley was erected on the stage.

Auditorium Theatre, Chicago

After the war the building fell into Roosevelt University’s hands, but lacking funds to restore and reopen it the theater sat empty until 1967. That year a four-year restoration completed, enabled by a committee that sought patrons to fund its reopening.

Auditorium Theatre, Chicago

Ever since, the Auditorium Theater has hosted concerts, plays, dance, and even the 2015 and 2016 NFL Draft.

Auditorium Theatre, Chicago

And there we were, ready to enjoy the Joffrey Ballet’s presentation of The Nutcracker. What a wonderful venue in which to see it!

Auditorium Theatre, Chicago
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Ohio Theater

Ohio Theater
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom
2008

I made this photo on an impromptu road trip early in 2008, one I took to help me recover from a particularly stressful time. I drove the two 1830s roads that connected Indianapolis to the Ohio River at Madison: the Madison State Road (to Madison) and the Michigan Road (back to Indianapolis). It was my first trip along both roads.

I’d never been to Madison before and I was blown away by how lovely it was. The streets of the old city were lined with very old homes and commercial buildings, some of the oldest I’ve seen anywhere in Indiana — and most of them had been either well maintained or restored.

Built in 1938, the Ohio Theater is a young building on Madison’s historic main street. On the day I visited it still showed first-run movies. But in 2016 the theater’s owners lost the building in foreclosure, and ownership passed to a nonprofit which occasionally shows old films and recently got a grant to determine what it would take to renovate this building.

Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

single frame: Ohio Theater

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