By RONDA GREGORY
News & Journal Staff Writer
The neo-Gothic and Art Deco architectural landmark in downtown Clarksburg — the former Robinson Grand Theater — is another step closer toward having its glory days restored. By a vote in March of 3-0 of the Clarksburg Municipal Building Commission to apply for a $6 million loan to finance a proposed restoration, the theater is set to become a regional cultural center, said Clarksburg City Manager Martin Howe.
The request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture is a low-interest loan, with the City of Clarksburg hoping that the interest would be in the affordable 3.5 percent to 3.75 percent range and be a 30- to 35-year loan term, Howe reported.
Howe said the city still has to work on some supplemental information for the Department of Agriculture, but expects all the loan-required documentation will be ready to submit by late spring.
Even if the loan is approved, the building commission and the Clarksburg City Council still must pass bond-sales ordinances.
Located at 444 W. Pike Street in the downtown business district, the theater opened on February 5, 1913 and was known as the Rose Garden before closing several years ago.
Mayor Catherine Goings believes reopening the revamped historic theater will mean a lot to people.
“We’re extremely excited about this,” Goings exclaimed. “I feel that of all the projects that we currently have, this touches the hearts of many people in our community because they have such fond memories of the theater back in its day.”
The theater should have its doors open and be up and running for people to enjoy by late 2016 or early 2017. “That’s our hope,” Goings said.
In April 2014, the city council voted to purchase the theater for $430,000 from Upshur County owners C.J. Martin, James Lambert and David Rexroad.
Council had been working on plans to buy the theater property since 2005, but the previous owner had not been willing to sell at that time.
Clarksburg Architectural firm WYK is set to do the restoration project.
James Swiger of WYK is heading up the restoration and reported that the firm is well on the way to bringing the theater back to life but with modern twists.
“We’re in the design development phase,” he said. “We’re using materials that will fit the theater’s time period. We’re trying to complement and be sensitive to the Art Deco era.”
Swiger explained that the exterior is neo-Gothic style, but the interior is themed Art Deco.
He reports that the building is structurally sound but needs upgrades to its internal mechanics and to its aesthetics.
“We’re adding modern restrooms, new lighting, stage rigging, new electrical and plumbing systems and new concession stands,” he added. “And we’re adding a kitchen. We’re trying to make it as multi-functional as possible.”
Of course, the theater will also get new coats of paint and new seat cushions.
The architects plan to make modern improvements to the exterior as well but still maintain the integrity of the time period. Old glass panels of the marquee will be replaced with LED lighting.
Swiger stated he is privileged and glad to be doing the theater renovation. “We’re very excited to be on this project. We look forward to bringing it back to its former glory, so it can be a part of Clarksburg history for future generations.”
After the theater is restored, the long-range plan, Howe explained, is to create a fund-raising foundation and a management team to operate the facility on a daily basis.
Proponents of the theater restoration explain they believe it will draw more people to the downtown area, which will bring in new businesses as well.
And Goings stated that they plan to attract Clarksburg’s “neighbors” in to enjoy what the renovated theater will have to offer. “We want to make this a regional venue, not just for Clarksburg, but for other counties throughout the state as well as other areas in our surrounding states.”