Liberty Theatre

179 E. Main Street,
Oak Hill, OH 45656

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Liberty Theatre

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The former Liberty Theatre was opened in 1920, and continued until at least 1950. It now serves the town of Oak Hill as a teen center.

Contributed by Bill Eichelberger

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

Chrs
Chrs on October 28, 2012 at 9:18 pm

The Oak Hill Liberty Theater Opened August 7, 1920. It seated 490 People. Closed Its Doors March 24, 1960.

EdwardsBrynele
EdwardsBrynele on February 14, 2015 at 10:17 am

The Liberty Theater was built by Henry Thomas and Richard Davis. The first theater building burnt in June 1929, it was rebuilt and reopened on Christmas Day, 1929.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 14, 2015 at 4:38 pm

The obituary of Henry Thomas in Motion Picture Herald in 1946 said that he had operated the Liberty Theatre at Oak Hill for the last 30 years, suggesting there was probably an earlier Liberty operating as early as 1916. The 1920 building was probably the project noted in this item from the September 6, 1919, issue of The American Contractor:

“Huntington, w. Va.—Theater (M. P.): Oak Hill. O. Archt. Richard H. Bates, Jr., Huntington. Owner Henry Thomas, Oak Hill. Brk., hollow blk. Archt. selected. Will call for bids in abt. 1 week.”
I have a suspicion that the middle initial H the item gave the architect was an error. Wikipedia has a page for the Mortimer Place Historic District in Huntington, West Virginia, and lists the architect of the project, built in 1915, as Richard Mortimer Bates. The page for Richard Bates at Find a Grave says that he moved to Los Angeles in the early 1920s and practiced architecture there until 1940. That means he was the same Richard M. Bates, Jr. who designed the Westlake Theatre in Los Angeles.

The facade of the Youth Center is characteristic of the late 1910s-early 1920s, so I suspect that at least the shell of Bates’s 1920 building survived the 1929 fire and is what we see today.

EdwardsBrynele
EdwardsBrynele on February 22, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Joe Vogel, I found Henry Thomas' obit in the January edition of the Motion Picture Herald. Is there another? Or is that the same one you found? What interesting information you gave me. Henry Thomas was a first cousin to my Grandfather.I know there was an earlier theater located above the old department store here in town. It was on the second floor. So perhaps Henry Thomas ran it before the Liberty was built in 1919. There was not much left of the theater from the 1929 fire. The front was completely gone. some of the walls were left standing. But, Alas, there are no original pictures of the 1919 building or none we have come across. We are currently in talks of restoring, preserving the old theater and making it a community center/museum. Thanks for your information.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 22, 2015 at 2:47 pm

EdwardsBrynele: I found only the January obituary. Obituaries in the trade papers were always brief unless the deceased was a major figure in the industry. Major figures might get a short notice in one issue and a longer obituary in a later issue, but local theater operators typically only got one item, and that often only in one trade paper. Undoubtedly many got no notice in the trades at all.

I’ve searched for other references to Henry Thomas in the trade publications but haven’t found any. There probably are some but the limitations of current search engines are preventing them from being found. I’ve also searched for additional references to earlier theaters in Oak Hill, but again with no success.

A second floor hall does sound very likely for the earlier Liberty Theatre, though. In the late 19th century second floor theaters were probably more common than ground floor houses, especially in smaller cities. A lot of them ended up as early movie houses before being replaced by more modern theaters.

Even though the original front of the Liberty Theatre was destroyed by the 1929 fire, I suspect that the rebuilt front was probably not much different from the original. The brickwork is much more typical of the early 1920s than it is of the late 1920s. They might even have used a lot of the original bricks in the reconstruction.

EdwardsBrynele
EdwardsBrynele on February 22, 2015 at 3:44 pm

Joe Vogel, That is what I am suspecting. Thank you for your input. I have some more photos to attach to this page for the Liberty Theater. I would like to watermark them first though. it definitely is a fascinating place.

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