What does it take to restore an old theater?
You must have initiative and purpose. The Friends of Geneva Theater have just the ticket.
They’re campaigning to have the old Geneva Theater bought and restored for use as a community, cultural and arts center, along with some retail.
The theater has been for sale for some time, and is located in downtown Lake Geneva. The one-stage theater has been divided into four separate smaller theaters, but is in need of much repair.
I recall attending a performance there about six years ago. The first thing you notice is the dilapidated seats. The structure has not seen basic maintenance for quite some time.
A planning meeting will be held Wednesday by The Friends of Geneva Theater to consider how the building can be renovated and reused. Among those in attendance will be Ken Etten of the Lake Geneva Historic Preservation Committee, and Elizabeth Chappell of the Lake Geneva Art Museum. Etten is also a principal with McCormack + Etten Architects of Lake Geneva.
The building is an historic landmark that had replaced the old Ford Opera House. A June 6, 1928, grand opening of the Geneva Theater attracted the state’s 25th governor, Gov. Fred Zimmerman. Past performances at the theater include sets by the Marx Brothers, Will Rogers and Bela Lugosi.
The planning group hopes to work with potential developers or buyers to create the community center. Money may be provided from the private sector and through a variety of grants.
The Lake Geneva Economic Development Corp. supports the plan, although there presently is no money available for the project.
Keith Barber is a data reporter at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (414) 225-1821.