Woodward Theater won $150,000 national grant to restore its historic marquee


When MOTR owners Dan McCabe, Chris Schadler and Chris Varias opened the Woodward Theater in 2014, there wasn’t enough money left after renovations to paint the place. But they didn’t let that stop the grand opening. Instead, they held a “Pints for Paint” event, which with the help of the community, they raised the funds they needed.

This community spirit and participation continues to guide the Woodward, which recently won a $150,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Vote Your Mainstreet contest to facelift the building and restore its original electric marquee.


With the help of the Cincinnati Preservation Association's executive director Paul Muller, the Woodward applied for the grant. The national contest pitted the Woodward against 25 other main street communities around the country; it required organizations to get daily community votes in support of their projects.

“The local music community really got behind this and voted diligently, and the other businesses on Main Street were supportive as well,” says McCabe. “The support of our staff, most of which have been with us since we opened MOTR in 2010, was fantastic. They mobilized their friends and people voted daily.”


The grant will allow the Woodward to complete a total exterior facelift, including improving structural elements, updating wiring and sockets, repairing the crumbling plaster rosettes and returning the original lightbulb sign to its 1913 glory. With the help of local metal fabricator Kate Schmidt, as well as an architect and structural engineer, the Woodward's marquee restoration project should be completed by the end of 2018.

The sign will be constructed of copper, maintaining the original beaux-arts (think pre-Art Deco) aesthetic. “It’s going to be an attraction,” McCabe says. “I expect people to get off the streetcar and walk up. It’s going to be bright and shiny and a destination for people exploring OTR for the architecture.”

Cincinnati is rich in architectural heritage, especially period Italianate architecture, which is part of what McCabe attributes to the community support for the project. “Cincinnati loves its history,” he says.


The permitting process is expected to take some time, but McCabe is confident in the project, which he says will include some fun and surprising touches as they ramp up to the big reveal. Stay tuned to the Woodward's Facebook page for progress updates and for announcements related to the reveal. “It’ll be worth celebrating,” McCabe promises.
 

Read more articles by Kamal Kimball.

Kamal Kimball is a freelance writer and co-founder of Ampersand Creative Services.
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