Restoration of Downtown Paducah's Columbia Theatre Moving Forward

Sep 22, 2016

Credit Matt Markgraf, WKMS

Restoration work on Paducah's historic Columbia Theatre is moving forward. The Paducah Art House Alliance, overseeing the theatre, approved a schematics proposal from architectural firm Westlake Reed Leskosky of Cleveland this week. 

Alliance Board Chair Darlene Mazzone says the firm is now creating a full scale set of schematics for the project. The detailed plans will look similar to an earlier design. "After that's done, which hopefully will be done by the end of the year, they could then take those - if approved - and provide a cost estimate for construction and renovation," she said.

Mazzone says this part of the project will cost around $150,000 dollars. The firm will also present a plan for weatherizing the exterior of the building.

The final phase of interior work involves removing the lead paint. The Alliance has applied for a Brownfields cleanup grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for that work.

Mazzone said both of the interior’s distinct design styles will be preserved. “There is what’s called the Adamesque style, which is the original 1927 design of the building. And then in the 50s there was this beautiful flamboyant, sort of Hollywood style that they call a Skouras Style… and both of those exist and actually can be seen.” She said the architecture firm has never seen the two styles together in a theatre before.

She said she hopes after the interior clean up is finished people can then safely come in and see the space.

She estimates total restoration will cost between $6-7 million, but this could change depending on numerous factors, including the type of sound system they use and whether or not to restore the original seating or install new seats.

The Paducah Arts House Alliance supervises Maiden Alley Cinema and the future Columbia Theatre. Their principle project right now, Mazzone said, is the theatre restoration. Eventually, the Columbia will run in partnership with Maiden Alley, with up to three screens in the new space and to expand program offerings currently at Maiden Alley Cinema. She envisions the theatre will be a space for film, music, lectures, educational performances, weddings, events and art galleries.

The Columbia Theatre opened in 1927 and closed in 1987.

Take a tour of the theatre