Virginia Theatre marquee update

posted by jwballer on March 17, 2010 at 2:52 pm

CHAMPAIGN, IL — As you know the Champaign Park District owns the historic Virginia Theatre. The Champaign Park District is dedicated to restoring it to it’s original appearance. In the summer of 2010 the are planing on demolishing the current 60 year old marquee and replacing it with a false replica of the Virginia’s 1920’s marquee. The Virginia’s marquee should be preserved and replacing the current marquee would be historicism.

Plans call for the new replicated marquee to have LED. Back in the 1950’s the RKO circuit owned the theatre and installed this historic marquee. The RKO circuit owned the Virginia and the Orpheum on Neil Street for a while. Not many historic theatres have 60 year old marquees. We can’t just watch another one bite the dust! We have to step in and tell the Champaign Park District that we want to keep this historic marquee for many years to come. Save this 60 year old marquee!

Contact the Champaign Park District at 217-398-2550
Locate them at 706 Kenwood Road, Champaign IL 61821

Great Flickr Collection of Photos of theatre

Theaters in this post

Comments (13)

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 17, 2010 at 3:23 pm

I guess I’d have to see a sketch of what they are planning before forming an opinion. Some of the replica 20’s marquees that have been installed across the country have not worked out very well. That much is for sure.

CSWalczak on March 17, 2010 at 3:24 pm

In fairness to the Park Board, their recent press release (which can be read on this site) denies that the new proposed marquee will have LED signage. (Scan down to comment by “Julia”):

It also includes a picture of the original marquee. I would like to see a picture of the proposed revision before I decide which side to support.

HowardBHaas on March 17, 2010 at 3:53 pm

I don’t like the term “false” replica. Historic buildings can have architectural integrity and a cohesive look by using vintage photos to restore their original look.

On the other hand, from the photos, I love the curent Art Moderne marquee which likely dates to the 1930s or 1940s. It looks like much fun, and I’d vote to keep it, just as the New Amsterdam on 42nd Street in New York City did a wonderful restoration, but kept its Art Moderne version.

armyarch on March 17, 2010 at 11:24 pm

The plans that the Park District submitted to the City have the flat canopy style that is depicted in the photo (submitted by Julia) re-created except for the fact that the plans that were submitted include an LED screen. It was only after the news broke of the planned demolition that the Champaign Park Director stated that they had no plans for a LED screen; however, the Park District still has not submitted any new plans without the LED scree to the city for approval.

I was the one that first started using the term “false” on my Flickr photostream. That comes right out of the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation:

  1. The historic character of a property will be retained and preserved. The removal of distinctive materials or alteration of features, spaces, and spatial relationships that characterize a property will be avoided.

  2. Each property will be recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use. Changes that create a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features or elements from other historic properties, will not be undertaken.

  3. Changes to a property that have acquired historic significance in their own right will be retained and preserved.

  4. Distinctive materials, features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize a property will be preserved.

  5. Deteriorated historic features will be repaired rather than replaced. Where the severity of deterioration requires replacement of a distinctive feature, the new feature will match the old in design, color, texture, and, where possible, materials. Replacement of missing features will be substantiated by documentary and physical evidence.

  6. New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction will not destroy historic materials, features, and spatial relationships that characterize the property. The new work shall be differentiated from the old and will be compatible with the historic materials, features, size, scale and proportion, and massing to protect the integrity of the property and its environment.

Re-creating a marquee that only existed for less than one-third of the history of the theater is not historic preservation. It’s historic re-creation. The Standards are very clear on this. I find it ironic that the Park District wants to destroy a major part of Champaign history in the year that the city turns 150 years old.

HowardBHaas on March 18, 2010 at 12:03 am

3 above says “other” historic properties. It is not “false” to recreate original historic features to the particular property, including those there for only one third of the life. That’s intended for Philadelphia’s Boyd, and fine via all the historic authorities. (note that I am the volunteer president of the nonprofit Friends of the Boyd, Inc, and in real life, an attorney)
The Boyd’s current marquee, though, isn’t as distinctive & wonderful an example, as your marquee. So, drop the “false” and argue the merits of your current marquee. it HAS merits. Click on my name, send me an email, and I’ll email you the name of a national expert who may say something supportive for you.

Ron Carlson
Ron Carlson on March 18, 2010 at 12:40 am

I agree that the current marquee has merit and it appears to be in good condition, that said, it doesn’t really blend with the architecture of the building. Many theaters had their marquee’s replaced over time and usually each replacement was in keeping with whatever was in vogue at the time with no thought to the style of the facade or what the original architect had in mind. So my opinion is to go back to something more in keeping with whatever was originally intended. Also this marquee does not need to be destroyed, it can be removed and sold to grace another theater that may be needing a new marquee. Changing the name is minor and can be done by any good sign company.

CSWalczak on March 18, 2010 at 1:33 am

Regardless of whether one likes or hates LEDs think it should be noted too that the use of LEDs does NOT invalidate a theater’s present or future inclusion on the National Register. Both the Apollo in New York and the Fox in Atlanta have them, just as two examples of theaters on the National Register.

armyarch on March 18, 2010 at 9:13 pm

3 starts off with though “Each property will be recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use.” Constructing a new marquee can only mimic what was truly there when it was built and also gives a false sense of theater’s historical development. That’s why #4 trumps everything. The Virginia’s neon marquee has definitely acquired historic significance in its own right plus it was installed within the theater’s period of significance which ends in 1953.

Reinstalling the marquee on a different theater flies in the face of historic preservation. Not only does it remove something that is important to the history and context of the Virginia, but it adds something to another theater that was never there in the first place.

I can give an entire list of theaters with non-original marquees, where no one would ever think of demolishing the marquees that currently exist starting with the Chicago Theater.

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on March 20, 2010 at 3:00 am

My ability to view this page was deemed as “Ooops, you don’t have permission to log in, etc.

Why offer this and disallow in the same breath?

armyarch on April 2, 2010 at 10:19 pm

The Champaign Historic Preservation Commission “emphatically” advised against replacing the Virginia Theater’s marquee with a replica of the original at their meeting on April 1, 2010. The final decision will still be made at the Park District board meeting on April 14, 2010.

TLSLOEWS on May 8, 2010 at 2:24 am

As long as it is a nice marquee like the original or latter not none of this cheap looking stuff they throw up everwere nowadays.This is show business after all.“The show starts at the sidewalk” Marcus Loew.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on May 8, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Never heard that quote before,Should have shared with other theatre chains.

Broan on January 20, 2011 at 11:12 pm

re: armyarch’s 3/18/10 post: The Chicago Theatre’s marquee was in fact replaced with a replica in 2004.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment