The future of the Colony Theatre was recently discussed during a Hillsboro city council meeting. The mayor stated the cost of renovation would run between $150,000 to $200,00. It was also noted that the theater had several previous owners and the many attempts at making it a viable venue had failed. While I suspect there are many reasons for its failure the overwhelming recreation and entertainment options available today has to be towards the top. Venues like the Colony simply have too much competition.
On May 10th my wife and I attended a tribute show at the Murphy Theater in Wilmington. It was only the second time we had been there but it is an amazing place. A one-hundred year old music hall that looks like it should be sitting just off-Broadway and not a small Midwest city.
It was obvious the Murphy’s doors are kept open by a very large and loyal band of volunteers along with
grants, gifts, and revenues from their many yearly events. Even then the cost of maintaining such a structure must be enormous and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the wolf is always at the door.
Greenfield once had two movie theaters and now has none. One, the Lyric, now serves as a veterinarian’s office and the other, the Rand, has been demolished. Other than nostalgia there was little special about either. Same thing with the Colony, people have great memories about it but the building itself isn’t very remarkable. Such is not true of the Murphy, it is a jewel that should somehow be kept alive.
The same is true of Bell’s Opera House in Hillsboro. I took a tour of it several years ago and until then had no idea how great a venue sat on the second floor of a downtown Hillsboro building. Drew Hastings is the current owner and has said he hopes to someday be able to renovate the theater and breath new life into it.
Preserving history is a complex thing. One persons ruin is another’s landmark. I love visiting cities who long ago developed a plan for preservation and kept to it. Charleston, SC is such a place. While towns in our area don’t have Charleston’s unique architecture and historical significance we do need to be seriously thinking about preserving and restoring what we do have. Most every town and city has one or more iconic structures whose loss would alter the flavor of the community. Chillicothe has the Carlisle Building that was almost totally lost to an arsonist. Greenfield has its school campus and Pythias Castle. Hillsboro has Bell’s and maybe the Parker House building.
I would hate the loss of any of these landmark buildings and wouldn’t mind seeing government grant programs to identify what is truly worth saving and to some degree provide funding.