Local and state officials gathered outside the County Theater in Doylestown Thursday, June 13, to celebrate receipt of a $64,500 state grant that will fund renovations to the facade of the historic Art Deco movie house.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission awarded $2.5 million in Keystone Historic Preservation grants June 6 – including the one to the County Theater, Inc. – to help historical and heritage organizations, museums and local governments in 28 counties.
John Toner, founding director of the County Theater, said the renovations, which include restoring the marquee to its original 1938 lettering and work on the neon tower and ceramic tile facade, are part of the nonprofit theater’s $4.2 million expansion project.
He said the work on the outside of the historic theater on East State Street would not begin until sometime in 2020.
“It will be one of the later things we do,” Toner said, adding the historic theater will be closed for interior and exterior renovations once the new theater is open but “will not be changed.”
The expansion into the property next door will add a large third auditorium, a large lobby and first-floor bathrooms, which will allow the County to screen films in all three auditoriums and host more community events.
“The additional screen will allow us to maintain our financial viability while expanding” the number of community events, Toner said, citing as an example of such events the theater’s participation in Doylestown’s Pride Festival this weekend.
Groundbreaking for the expansion, Toner said, is slated for fall, possibly September. He added an announcement about the timing would come soon.
Among those attending or taking part in the press conference outside the theater were state Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D-10); state Rep. Wendy Ullman (D-143); Doylestown Mayor Ron Strouse, Doylestown Borough Councilwoman Wendy Margolis, a former theater board member; and Chris Collier, the theater’s executive director.
Santarsiero called the theater a “special” place for Doylestown and “a jewel for Bucks County.”
“It’s really part of our culture, as well as a place for entertainment,” he said.
Ullman said the grant recognizes the theater as an “outstanding example of Art Deco architecture.”
“The County Theater is truly a jewel among gems in a county that really cherishes its history,” she added.
Strouse and Margolis both credited the theater for playing a large role in the success of Doylestown’s downtown.
“Doylestown has become vibrant in large part due to the success of the County Theater,” Strouse said.
Margolis said Doylestown has a “vibrant cultural scene anchored by the theater.”
The PHMC awarded 57 grants selected from 96 eligible applications. Grant amounts ranged from $5,000 to $25,000 for project grants and $5,000 to $100,000 for construction projects. All grants require a 50 percent cash match and were awarded through a competitive selection process.
“These grants make an enormous difference to communities across Pennsylvania,” said PHMC Executive Director Andrea Lowery. “They assist townships and municipalities in revitalization and development efforts, providing funding for vibrant use of historic buildings within their communities.”
Keystone Historic Preservation Grants provide funding to support projects that identify, preserve, promote and protect historic and archaeological resources in Pennsylvania for both the benefit of the public and the revitalization of communities.
Funding also supports municipal planning initiatives that focus on historic resources or may be used to meet building- or community-specific planning goals. The program also supports construction activities at resources listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
These grants receive funding from the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund. This fund is supported annually from a portion of the state realty tax revenue.