Lincoln Square Theatre Receives $1.75M Grant
DECATUR, IL — The first half of a $3.5 million State of Illinois “Illinois First” grant earmarked for the renovation of downtown Decatur’s historic Lincoln Square Theatre has arrived.
The Board of the Lincoln Square Theatre has been waiting since 2002 to receive the funding from the State of Illinois. Carla Brinkoetter, president of the board of directors of Lincoln Square Theatre, Inc,, said the theatre will have 24 months to spend the grant funds, with another $1.75 million promised once the first half of the grantis spent.
The Lincoln Square Theatre in downtown Decatur, Illinois, was built in 1916 and was designed to look more like a Beaux Arts European opera house than a movie theater. During its heyday, the Lincoln hosted most of the big names of vaudeville including Bob Hope. Hope got his start as a headliner, at the Lincoln, when he started headlining vaudeville shows.
The Lincoln originally seated 1250 patrons. The seating was increased when the original mezzanine was pushed forward to gains seats in order to accomodate the increasing crowds going to the movies in the 30’s and 40’s. The renovated theater will have fewer but much more comfortable seating.
The first phase of the work will include upgrading the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and will address handicapped accessibility. Also on tap is the restoration of the auditorium and the proscenium arch. Both the auditorium and the proscenium had been dramatically changed over the years.
At one time, the proscenium was flanked by two columns topped by a bowl of light held up by sea-horses. These wonderful architectural elements were removed at some time in the past during one of the many redecorations of the theater Some of the plasterwork in the auditorium has been lost. Two beautiful boxes seats flanked the stage at one time. The fronts of the mezzanine boxes were lost during the earlier expansions.
When the grant was first announced in 2002, the architectural firm of van Dijk Wetlake Reed and Leskosky of Clevland, Ohio was contracted to work with the Lincoln’s board to create an updated Master Plan, a phased development approach and cost estimates for the Lincoln Square Theatre and the adjoining Odd Fellows Building.
Even though there has been some negative comments made on the subject of the timeliness of the grant, considering the state of the finances in Illinois, many feel that the renovation of the Lincoln will be a postive thing for economic development and tourism in Decatur.