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Milwaukee Film to operate Oriental Theatre; Fundraising $10 million to revitalize 90-year-old facility (by Lauren Anderson, BizTimes, June 19, 2017)
Milwaukee Film, the organizer of the city’s annual film festival, has entered into a 31-year lease to operate the Oriental Theatre and announced plans to make upgrades to the historic facility. The nonprofit organization is fundraising $10 million to revitalize the 1927 theater with the goal of “creating a superior customer experience and making the Oriental Theatre a state of the art historic cinema,” according to a Milwaukee Film news release.
The Oriental Theatre, located on Milwaukee’s east side, opened in 1927. The theater, located on Milwaukee’s East Side at 2230 N. Farwell Ave., is currently operated by Los Angeles-based Landmark Theatres. When it assumes operation of the theater in July 2018, Milwaukee Film plans to run a year-round, nonprofit cinema.
“The Oriental Theatre is a treasure. I have visited hundreds of cinemas worldwide and the Oriental Theatre is my favorite. It is magical to see 1,000 of our members fill the main house at our monthly screenings,” said Jonathan Jackson, artistic and executive director of Milwaukee Film. “Our nine-year-old organization securing long-term control of this cinema is a momentous occasion. We have cemented our permanence in Milwaukee and intend to greatly expand our cultural, economic, and educational impact on our community.”
The organization has secured $3 million of its $10 million fundraising goal. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who co-founded Milwaukee Film, made a personal contribution of $2 million.
“From day one, every person involved in Milwaukee Film – from staff, to volunteers, to the board, to our dedicated 3,600 members – has been driven by the goal of not simply creating a film festival, but creating one of the best and biggest film festivals in the world,” Abele said. “This announcement brings us closer to that goal. It isn’t the culmination or an end point, it’s the start of the next chapter.”
The Herzfeld Foundation has also committed $1 million to the initiative.
Designs haven’t yet been completed, but the organization is “committed to maintaining the existing aesthetics and character of this iconic Milwaukee building,” according to the release.
Kenosha’s Cinemark Tinseltown USA movie theatre has been sold to a New Jersey-based real estate investment group for $8.4 million, according to state records.
Chambers Street Properties purchased the 14-screen theatre at 7101 70th Court from SP Theater LLC of Chicago.
Cinemark operates 525 theatres in 41 states, Brazil, Argentina and 13 other Latin American countries. This is the only Cinemark theater in Wisconsin.
Chambers Street Properties merged with Gramercy Property Trust, Inc. in 2015 creating the largest industrial and office net lease REIT at the time with a value of $5.7 billion.
Visitors must sign a waiver acknowledging that the theatre has been vacant for two decades. There’s a scar on the edge of the balcony, an effort to duplex the auditorium to produce more income in the 1990s, but the Warner is up for rebirth as the home of the Milwaukee Symphony. The stagehouse will have to be extended beyond the current rear wall so it’s large enough to fit the whole orchestra, and its management is leading a bid to renovate the Warner Grand to become the symphony’s new home. The task is to raise $120 million to make the move a reality. So far, the MSO has raised $76 million and says over 50 donors have given substantial gifts to help it move into the Warner Grand to help save an historic gem that likely would be lost otherwise.
The Milwaukee Symphony does about 135 performances per 40-week season and now offers themed performances of music from popular movies like “Harry Potter” and “La La Land” in order to attract new audiences, and its vision with the Warner Grand Theatre is to make going to the symphony an experience from the moment someone walks in the door, the original intent behind going to a movie palace.
The MSO is far from the first orchestra to move into a refurbished movie palace downtown. They’re regularly retrofitted to be symphony halls and the idea of the MSO moving to the Warner Grand had existed for some time. In 2001 the MSO conducted a highly successful acoustical test in the Warner Grand. Being much deeper than it is wide, the “shoebox” shape is better for orchestra acoustics, and the very high balcony is good because the sound doesn’t get trapped under the balcony. The decorations deflect sounds in good ways, though Rapp and Rapp didn’t build any of it for acoustical reasons. But in 2001 there wasn’t an appetite for a move because an addition was being built at the Milwaukee Art Museum, there was too much traffic to expand on North Second Street because it was a major artery, and the MSO’s need wasn’t as great because there were no Broadway shows at its then-home during its season.
Now, with the architecture firm Kahler Slater, the MSO plans to bump the back wall of the L-shaped theater into North Second Street to create a larger stage that can be seen from all areas of the theatre, to extend the east end with an addition replacing replace the building next door, and to enlarge the lobby to hold 1,700 people before and after performances. There’ll be new seating for a 1,750-person capacity, first-floor lavatories and elevators, and a second-floor gathering space for revenue-generating private events.
The City has donated a $750,000 grant and street-reconstruction assistance for moving the rear wall while retaining its historic and structural integrity. Initial approvals are in from the State of Wisconsin and the National Parks Service for historic preservation tax credits which will cover 40 percent of the cost of the historic restoration of the Warner Grand. The project is expected to cost the MSO about $75 million. If fundraising goes as planned, construction will begin in Autumn of 2017 and the MSO will be doing concerts in the born-again Warner Grand Theatre by Autumn of 2019.
An interesting story here. The AMC Fitchburg 18-screen theatre has been sold to a small New Jersey-based theater chain called New Vision Theatres. The theatre has been rebranded Fitchburg 18.
The sale was prompted by AMC’s purchase of Sundance Cinemas. Under the U.S. Department of Justice’s terms for approving the sale of the Carmike Cinemas chain (which included five Sundance theaters) to AMC, the DOJ required that AMC sell off one of the two theatres in markets where it already had a theater, including Madison. Many assumed that meant AMC would sell the six-screen Sundance Cinemas since the chain, largest in the world, is not known for managing smaller arthouses like Sundance. But instead, AMC opted to sell its Fitchburg theatre to New Vision, which appears to be a new company that now owns 10 theaters in six states. “We are excited to welcome you and help you get to the movies and more of what you love!” the website announces.
AMC recently completed a major remodel of this theatre, including adding reclining seats and a bar in the lobby along with AMC’s distinctive bright-red soda machines.
New Visions’s website said that its theatres will offer live sporting events and interactive video games and on its website, New Vision said it will not honor the AMC Stubs loyalty program in which customers earn points towards discounts on movie tickets and concessions. Instead, the theater will offer its own New Neighbor discount card. All AMC passes and coupons will be honored at the theater through the end of July.
Also, New Vision sells a “Refillable Popcorn Bucket” for $21 that entitles the owner to $4.25 refills for an entire year.
In the 1950s, the staff of the Rivoli Theatre portrayed ghosts for the Municipal Recreation Department’s Halloween Saturday afternoon show, the Manitowoc Herald Times reported on October 30, 1953 saying, “Eight young misses will portray the roles of ghosts in serving as ushers at the event for the kiddies. Their adopted theme song will be ‘A-Haunting We Will Go’.” The ushers for the evening included Natalie (Spooks) Lueck, Betty (Spirits) Fronk, Nancy (Shadow) Henrickson, Dorothy (Goblin) Shavlik, Shirley (Screams) Richard, Shirley (Shreaks) Beth, and Lou Ann (Groans) Prausa. The 1953 feature was the “Houdini Story”, “with its death-defying feast of the great escape artist of all time, the late Harry Houdini of Appleton” and “Disaster in the Stratosphere” (the sixth chapter of “The Lost Planet”), “Hollywood at Play”, and three cartoons. A costume contest was held with “numerous worthwhile prizes from Two Rivers merchants.” The article went on to report that “more than a hundred children have appeared in unique and unusual attire, with winners being selected by the applause of the audience.” All entrants through eighth grade were required to sign a “good behavior” pledge at their school, agreeing to exhibit proper behavior for Halloween and not be involved in vandalism or nuisance behavior, common at that time. Admission was fourteen cents, doors opened at 2:45 pm, the entertainment began at 3:15 and lasted about three hours, following which each participant received a treat from the Two Rivers Recreation Department. “Since its inception several years ago provision of this entertainment for the children has reduced Halloween nuisances to a minimum, according to the Police Department. Two Rivers boys and girls find this amusement far more attractive than the trick-or-treat tactics of prior years.”
The 1954 Recreation Department’s Halloween festivities were held on November 1, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the Two Rivers Recreation Department. Over 2,000 “good behavior” pledges were disbursed at local schools. Admission was 10 cents.
The RIVOLI, with its 1,000 seats, held its popular Halloween celebrations until it closed in the late 1950s. Afterwards the building became Evan’s Department Store and later the Two Rivers Christian Center Thrift Store.
The CLIFFORD Theatre was already operating in May of 1916 according to a PEG O' THE RING ad.
There’s a political problem that has been the main cause of inaction on the UPTOWN. The UPTOWN is privately controlled by an entity formed by the partners behind Jam Productions but no private operator wants to lay out the millions necessary for restoration; they’re looking for public funds. There’s a history of public investment in Chicago, but it’s politically difficult right now for public entities to invest that money because of other priorities, as simple as that. But then there’s the relatively small capacity of the UPTOWN compared with Wrigley Field, and the newer issue of performers getting ever higher cuts from touring and needing a lot of seats. You’d be left with stand-up comics and nostalgia acts, neither of which are ideal for the space.
For decades, dedicated UPTOWN preservationists have argued the theatre needs to be at the heart of a new entertainment district involving retail, restaurants and the other venues. A sound argument, but such a district did develop around the Wrigley ballpark a mile or so to the south. One could merge into the other, especially since Wrigleyville is hosting more and more live entertainment.
Either way, nobody will ever dare to knock the UPTOWN Theatre down. (Chris Jones, CHICAGO TRIBUNE)
Two competing plans have surfaced with interest in the historic vacant WEST BEND Theatre. The preservationists are with the nonprofit Historic West Bend Theatre, trying to convince city officials and others about its plans to renovate the theatre as a venue for concerts, dance recitals and weddings seating around 400 people, said Scott Georgeson, HWBT’s project architect who operates Orchestra Design Studio in Milwaukee. The renovated WEST BEND Theatre would preserve the building’s stage, he said, with movable seating that would allow for both live performances as well as weddings and other banquet-style events. That flexibility would keep the venue as active as possible and create more opportunities to earn revenue for the building’s operator, he said.
Historic West Bend Theatre is led by Lisa Rowe, an associate lecturer of communications-theater arts at University of Wisconsin-Washington County in West Bend. HWBT was organized in Spring of 2016 and needs to raise an estimated $1 million to $2 million for its proposal, Georgeson said.
Meanwhile, others want to demolish the WEST BEND Theatre while preserving the façade (including the marquee) as an entry into a new park and outdoor amphitheater on the former auditorium footprint, and that group claims it’s nearly raised the $700,000 it says is needed for that project. Mike Husar is leading the effort; he’s an owner of Husar’s House of Fine Diamonds next door to the WEST BEND Theatre, which opened in 1929, ended films about 10 years ago, then was sold to Ascendant Holdings LLC, a real estate development and investment group co-owned by West Bend native Matthew Prescott.
Husar claims the park/amphitheater project would bring more life to downtown and cost less than reusing the theatre. Milwaukee-based Zimmerman Architectural Studios Inc. is involved in the Husar group which Husar said has been working on the park/amphitheater plan for about a year.
The WEST BEND Theatre’s owner is avoiding the public controversy. “I don’t think we prefer a certain proposal,” said a representative of building owner Ascendant Holdings. “The important thing to us is that its next owner has a good long-term plan that they can actually follow through on and benefit the entire downtown area.”
The ORPHEUM Theatre revival is on the fast track. Follow at https://www.facebook.com/kenoshaorpheum/
May 5, 6, 7 and 8, 1942.
Marcus Theaters announced today that it plans to sell Value Oak Creek Cinema at 6912 South 27th Street to The Ridge Community Church, which is planning to convert it to a second location. The cinema has been in operation for 32 years and will continue to operate until the sale is complete.
The Greenfield-based non-denominational church is planning to remodel the building and open in the former cinema in fall 2017. Said the Rev. Mark Weigt: “We currently have several hundred attendees from this area of metro Milwaukee and we look forward to serving even more of our new neighbors at both our services and through volunteer work and community outreach.”
Milwaukee-based The Marcus Corp., the parent company for Marcus Theatres, didn’t disclose a sale price, but the property is assessed by Milwaukee County at $2.45 million
The 21 employees at the Value Oak Creek Cinema will be offered jobs at Marcus Theaters other locations, according to Marcus.
Marcus Theaters announced today that it is planning to sell the Value Oak Creek Cinema at 6912 South 27th Street to The Ridge Community Church, which is planning to convert it to a second location.
The theatre has been in operation for 32 years and will continue to operate until the sale is complete. The Greenfield-based non-denominational church is planning to remodel the building and open its Oak Creek campus in fall 2017. Said The Rev. Mark Weigt, “We currently have several hundred attendees from this area of metro Milwaukee and we look forward to serving even more of our new neighbors at both our services and through volunteer work and community outreach.”
Milwaukee-based The Marcus Corp., the parent company for Marcus Theatres, didn’t announce a sale price for the deal, but the property is assessed by Milwaukee County at $2.45 million. The 21 employees at the Value Oak Creek Cinema will be offered jobs at Marcus Theaters' other locations, according to Marcus.
The name ‘RUDALT’ was a contraction of the names of its builders Emil Rudloff and Henry “Crafty” Altschlager. The theatre was closed through 1941 because of a fire. Henry died in 1944, and his son Luke took control and operated the projectors. The RUDALT Theatre closed in 1962, and the Columbus Police Department occupies its footprint.
The name ‘RUDALT’ was from builders Emil Rudloff and Henry “Crafty” Altschlager. The theatre was closed for a year because of a fire. Henry died in 1944, and his son Luke took control and operated the projectors. The RUDALT Theatre closed in 1962, and the Columbus Police Department occupies its footprint.
HIGHLAND PARK, IL – It appears that a new retail building with a restaurant, offices and a garden will soon replace the Highland Park Theater on Central Avenue in downtown Highland Park. The city approved the $1.1 million sale of the theatre building and property for $1.1 million to the Highland Park-based Canel Companies, which says it plans to demolish the theatre and replace it with a two-story building that will include retail shops and a restaurant, according to a city news release. A portion of a nearby parking lot will be preserved for nearby business owners.
The city’s news release indicates Canel Companies’ proposed design is “consistent with the character of the current façade.” The selling price reflects the appraised value of the building.
(Moving Picture World, September 2, 1922)
East Indian Organist Delights Kenosha’s Moving Picture Fans
DR. HYLAND ELMAN SLATRE-WILSON now presides at the big three manual Barton Orchestral Organ installed in
Saxe Brothers' half-million dollar Orpheum Theatre, Kenosha, Wis.
Dr. Slatre-Wilson is one of the best educated musicians in the United States. His education was begun in the public schools of Syracuse New York, and continued at the college of the City of New York, the State University of New York and under such masters of music
as Leschetizky, Marescalchi, Consolo, Vitale and others in piano, violin, voice orchestration and composition.
From his youth Dr. Slatre-Wilson took up the study of the organ and at the age of fifteen became city organist of the All-India University of Bombay, India, his native land. He organized the 100 piece Emin D'Nalyh Orchestra, named after him. (Emin D'Nalyh is Dr. Slatre- Wilson’s family name).
Dr. Slatre-Wilson comes from a long line of great East Indian educators. About ten years ago he returned to the United States with John Alexander Dowie, of Zion City,
Illinois. Dr. Dowie at that time was building the Zion City tabernacle and planned to install one of the best pipe organs in the United States to be used in connection with a large choir and extensive musical festivals. Dr. Slatre-Wilson was placed in charge of the
organ selection and installation and himself designed one of the best Cathedral Organs in the United States, which even now is a famous feature of Zion City. The organization and establishment of the great Zion City Choir, whose singing has brought pleasure to hundreds of thousands in dozens of cities, was also a work of Dr. Slatre-Wilson.
Moving to Kenosha, Wisconsin, Dr. Slatre-Wilson founded the Conservatory of Music, which he conducted with great success until the opening of the Orpheum, when he took
his place at the console of the Barton Orchestral Organ installed there. The combination of Dr. Slatre- Wilson’s musical skill and the widely versatile three manual Barton Organ has captivated Kenosha’s music loving movie
goers, and the Orpheum is crowded daily and nightly. The delicately shaded, thousand-toned melodies pouring from the dozens of throats of the Barton Organ in response to the touch of Dr. Slatre-Wilson’s gifted fingers is a
revelation both of human skill and instrumental perfection.
In explanation of the marvelously intricate improvisations and minute tonal gradations with which Dr. Slatre-Wilson delights Orpheum audiences, he modestly gives great credit to the Barton Divided Manual. “I was greatly surprised,” he says, “to find that in spite of the many tonal combinations and rich expression possible with the Barton, I was able to
play it readily on sight, without a minute of study and I find it a constant inspiration in my daily striving to gain further mastery of organ playing.”
Built in 1914 for owner Chauncey Bishop and designed by Perry and Thomas, architects.
Seize Youth as Suspect in Girl’s Slaying
The city councils of Berwyn and Chicago offered rewards totaling $1,000 yesterday for information leading to the capture and conviction of the three bandits, one of whom on Sunday killed Miss Pearl Eggleston, 17 year old usher at the Ritz theater in Berwyn. Police Magistrate Joseph
Cerny of Berwyn added $100 to tho rewards. The crime has shocked the whole community. The Chicago council adopted a resolution offered by Ald. Horan [26th] saying: “Whereas, the entire city is stunned with horror at the wanton and cold blooded slaying of Miss Pearl Eggleston, the commissioner of police is hereby authorized to offer a reward of $500 for her slayers.” The police revealed that perpetrators of a theater holdup in Cicero recently are believed responsible for the killing of the girl last Sunday night when she screamed as the theater cashier was being robbed.
Recalls Cicero Robbery.
During the Cicero robbery an audience of 1,000 was unaware of what was happening when, on March 18, three armed youths drove up to the Annetta theater, 2337 South 62nd Avenue, and took $500 from B. Bartelstein, the manager, who was in the cashier’s cage at the time. Five persons who were passing the theater at that time were forced by the robbers to stand in the lobby with their faces to the wall. Methods used in each robbery and the similarity of the descriptions of the robbers lead police to believe that the same trio committed both crimes. The Cicero witnesses will be asked to view suspects seized in the hunt for Miss Eggleston’s slayer. Miss Gertrude Plante, the cashier of the Ritz theater in Berwyn, who saw her friend shot down, collapsed yesterday. She collapsed in her home, 113 South Elmwood avenue, Oak Park. Sho also is suffering from a bruise inflicted by a piece of metal torn from a money changing machine by the bullet that killed her friend who was with her in the cashier’s cage at the time of the holdup. The cashier, with a physician, went to the Berwyn police station, but was unable to identify a suspect there.
Methods, Appearance Similar.
Chief of Police Charles Levy is inclined to the belief that Miss Eggleston was murdered by a youth, her sudden recognition of whom made her scream. He thinks a young man may have obtained information from her as to the location of the $1,400 taken in the holdup without her having any idea he was a robber. Rather than face certain identification by her whom he had expected to be at work inside tho theater, the youth killed her, Chief Levy believes. “I wish they’d keep their crooks in Chicago,” Mayor Frank Janda of Berwyn said. “The fact that the car was found there shows where the slayers came from.”
In a May 18, 1916 ad in the Chicago Daily Tribune, the AVERS Theatre address was listed as 3828 W. 26th Street.
LeRoy’s Princess Theatre may reopen
Scott Miller and Sue Bratcher
Mike Hanafin, owner of the True Value Hardware and NAPA Auto Parts stores in LeRoy, wants to purchase the property and the city agreed to pony up $50,000 toward the project.
“It’s betterment of the community. My family’s here. We don’t plan on going anywhere, and we don’t want the theater going anywhere,” Hanafin said, saying his daughters and grandchildren were regulars at the theater.
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“If all goes well, I could be showing movies by Thanksgiving.”
The building hasn’t been sold yet, however. The asking price is $275,000.
The LeRoy City Council recently agreed to reimburse Hanafin $50,000 in tax increment financing funds to acquire the property. Tax money generated within a TIF district stays within that area to make further improvements.
The TIF funding is contingent on an initial investment of $280,000 from Hanafin, who plans to rehab the building and parking lot, even though the property went through a major overhaul two years ago.
“With an old theater, I don’t think you’re ever done,” Hanafin said.
Exact renovation plans aren’t set, he said.
It’s the second time in as many years the city has coughed up cash to reopen the Princess.
To aid the revitalization of LeRoy’s once sluggish downtown, the city loaned the current owners $65,000 in 2004 to help cover a $200,000 theater renovation project.
City Administrator Jeff Clawson previously said he expects the city to receive payment when the building is sold. He was unavailable Tuesday.
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Co-owner David Kraft put the property for sale in October. He said he didn’t know about Hanafin’s requests.
The Princess Theater had deteriorated before Kraft and Kris and Susan Spaulding gutted it two years ago. The building had sat vacant for nearly 20 years.
Records indicate the last movie was shown in 1982. A country-music center occupied the building for a couple years in the late 1980s, and the building briefly housed a teen dance hall in 1990.
During the vacant years, however, a leaky roof left the ceiling, paneling, plaster and everything else inside water damaged.
Then Kraft and the Spauldings updated everything. They built a new roof, put up new roof rafters and added steel beams to support the walls. The group installed a new sound system, a larger movie screen and church pews and bistro seating in the lobby for those who wanted to congregate after movies.
The GRAND Theatre in Kenosha opened on Christmas Eve of 1908 within the Meyers Block building and was owned and operated by John L. McConnell Jr. Two days later, a projection-booth fire caused two hundred patrons to evacuate into the rear alley. McConnell, who was operating the projector, said an advertising film he was threading caught fire when it touched a wire in the projector, which was also destroyed, and McConnell sustained severe right-hand burns from his attempts to extinguish the flames.
The following year saw McConnell announcing a new partnership with William Bottenburg of Chicago to build a chain of film theatres “with a touch of vaudeville” (Kenosha News, August 31, 1909). Cities besides Kenosha under consideration included Madison, Stevens Point, Duluth, Beloit, Janesville, La Crosse, Eau Claire, Appleton, Waukesha and Superior, Wisconsin and Winona, Minnesota.
A September 23, 1910 GRAND Theatre ad in the Kenosha Evening News exclaimed that a number of studios were licensed to exhibit their product at the GRAND including Essanay, Pathe, Edison, Gaumont, Biograph, Kalem, Lubin, Selig, Melies, Eclipse and Vitagraph.
But by 1912, the Kenosha Business Directory shows the building space occupied by the Postal Telegraph Cable Company and the Conforti Brothers Tailoring Shop.
The Meyers Block itself became the TMER&L Interurban Station and the local Wisconsin Gas and Electric offices, and was destroyed by fire on February 14, 1978.
I saw it tonight. The BYRON attraction board is gone.
Or, actually, here comes the neighborhood!
The sparkling lights of Du Quoin’s Grand Theater, which has been an iconic sight on the city’s Main Street since 1914, went dark on a Tuesday night in September, 2015. The theater will be closed for at least the next few months, according to city officials.
“It’s been a problem business for many years. It’s very much loved and it’s a piece of history here, but it hasn’t been successful,” said Mayor Guy Alongi. “We will have to look if it’s financially feasible to keep it open.”
Alongi and other city officials are working to gauge interest from the community to determine if the movie theater should reopen, and if the city should buy it or help find a private owner to take over.
“We’re going to ask the public a lot of questions,” said Jeff Ashauer, the city’s economic development director. “What do you think the city should do? What would be best for this town?”
When Jeannie Burke saw the letters on the theater’s marquee Tuesday night, she knew what her answer would be. “It would be so sad if it didn’t reopen because it’s always been a prominent part of this town, even as other things have come and gone,” said Burke, who works across the street at Main Street T’s. “And what if it’s not there anymore? I hope we don’t have to find out.”
Losing the cornerstone business would be tough for Du Quoin, where only a few landmark-type structures remain.
“This needs to be addressed, and only time will tell how that plays out,” Ashauer said.
Last year, the city loaned theater owner Richie Baker $20,000 to help purchase new digital projection equipment with a price tag of $90,000. None of that loan has been repaid, and Alongi said the theater might have more debt.
While the structure is “functioning,“ Alongi wants to make sure the the century-old structure is sound before moving forward. "A new business plan is definitely in order,” he said. “This will be a major investment, so the question will be if the community and the city can stomach it.”
If the theater goes up for sale and the city steps in somehow, Alongi said movies could be showing at the Grand again in the next six months or year.
“Whatever happens, it’s not going to happen overnight,” Alongi said. “When you see that closed sign, it is shocking, but I think we have to take our time and weigh our options with this one."
Architect Derald Milton West – Born June 24, 1918, Died October 18, 2010
Derald Milton West, American Institute of Architects, passed away at 92 in Blowing Rock, NC on October 18, 2010 after living a remarkable life.
He was born June 24, 1918 to the late Frank Milton and Edith Maude Garland West in Chicago, Illinois.
He was a gifted athlete in baseball, football, and hockey in his youth at Lindblom High School in Chicago. From there he was the first member of his family to graduate from college, with honors, from the University of Minnesota in architecture. While a student in 1942, he met and married his wife of 62 years, June Elizabeth Anderson. He was studying for his masters at the Illinois Institute of Technology under Mies van der Rohe when war broke out.
Millions of men were joining the war effort, and Derald was no exception. But his path was quite interesting; he was selected as one of a dozen young scientists and engineers to enter an elite program sponsored by the War Department. He was sent to Wright-Patterson for research and training into the capabilities of munitions, fuses, and other secret technologies. From there, he did further research at Princeton University, during which time he was privileged to meet Albert Einstein on numerous occasions.
Eventually he was sent to England to advise the Ninth Air Force on strategic bombing from a highly technical perspective. He often briefed the Supreme Allied Commanders as the invasion of Fortress Europe approached, and this at the age of 25. He landed on the Normandy beaches days after the invasion to assess the results of aerial bombardment. One of his duties was to advise the Ninth Air Force — after numerous failed missions — to carpet-bomb the runways of a notorious German fighter base in Holland rather than saturate the entire base with smaller munitions. He’d noted earler that the base was ringed with water-pump windmills since it was below sea level and his concept was to destroy the drainage system. The mission was staged and the base was never again operational throughout the war. That success, and his research on how to bomb the Seine bridges prior to D-Day – which precluded Field Marshal Erwin Rommel from reinforcing German resistance to the D-Day landings – earned him a Bronze Star from President Harry S Truman, a rare honor for a civilian.
But his true self-identity was always as an architect. After the war he built a successful practice in Genoa City, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and Blowing Rock, NC which lasted over sixty years – designing the GENOA Theatre in his new hometown and other buildings, particularly schools, throughout America and into South America. Active in the American Institute of Architects (AIA), he served many roles, including as the National Chairman of the Education Committee and as a judge of the NCAARB. He was a mentor and inspiration to three generations of young architects.
The concept of giving back to his community was important to Derald; he was the co-founder of the Genoa City Improvement Association, a member of the Lake Geneva Planning Commission, the Board of the First United Methodist Church of Lake Geneva, the Walworth County Park and Planning Commission, and the co-founder of the Chapel-on-the-Hill in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. In Blowing Rock he was a member of the Planning Board, a founding member and Chair of the Architectural Review Board, a member of the Historical Society, a vestry member of St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church, and a past-President and twice Rotarian of the Year of the Rotary Club of Blowing Rock and a multiple Paul Harris Fellow.
He was survived by his children Deralyn, James, Robert (Sally), and Marilee West, and by six grandchildren.
He was preceeded in death by his wife June, in 2004. A memorial for Mr. Derald M. West was conducted on Friday, November 12, 2010 at 11:00 o'clock at St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church in Blowing Rock officiated by Father Rick Lawler. Contributions in Derald’s memory can be given to St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church, the Blowing Rock Rotary Foundation or an organization of the donor’s choice. www.hamptonfuneralservice.com.