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Statewide Endangered

2011 Ten Most Endangered Historic Places 














September 2013: “That seems kind of a dubious distinction (to be) most endangered, but what it did was it brought statewide attention to this empty movie theatre, and that actually is how (the owners) learned that this building was for sale,” Morice said. Theater restoration slowly unfolding, The Daily Eastern News, September 5, 2013


January 2013: A local theater is under renovations to keep history alive on the Charleston Square. Read more…


February 2012: Landmarks Illinois was able to provide a follow-up technical assistance report for this site with a grant from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Click here for report.


February 2012: Will Rogers getting a second life but it might take a little while. Read more… 


November 2011: Preservation-minded owners have purchased the theater. Read more… 


Will Rogers Theatre
705-715 Monroe St., Charleston
(Coles County)


This 1938 theatre’s Art Deco design, vertical tower, and marquee mark it as one of this eastern Illinois community’s most distinctive buildings. Permanently closed in November 2010, the owner, American Multi-Cinema (AMC), is selling the theater and the adjoining commercial block. Locals fear that due to years of deferred maintenance and a lagging economy, it may be a long time before the building is sold to a capable owner. In the meantime, the building is at risk of further deterioration. The Charleston Preservation Commission has recommended the building for local landmark designation to protect it from future demolition, but the City Council has yet to make a final decision.

The Will Rogers Theatre was completed and opened in 1938. The adjoining commercial block, which contains four storefronts, had been completed a few years earlier (1935). The stream-lined-style buildings were developed by local businessmen, who also had built theater buildings with commercial blocks in Mattoon and Taylorville. While those theaters are standing, they have been largely gutted and altered. The Will Rogers’ lobby and stage are still intact. In the 1980s, the auditorium was divided into two theaters, but could be restored to a one-screen auditorium. The color scheme of the exterior terra cotta panels and decorative motifs are crimson and yellow, selected to honor the local high school’s colors, while the recessed auditorium ceiling was painted in blue and gray – the colors of Eastern Illinois University.

Originally seating approximately 1000 patrons, the Will Rogers Theatre faces the same challenges of many small town, Main Street movie theaters – competition from large-scale, multi-theater “cineplexes,” that are often located near an interstate highway with substantial parking. Many other Main Street theaters have been purchased and operated by local non-profit organizations to serve as community centers or performing arts venues, for which fundraising can often be a challenge. Other current efforts to save closed downtown Main Street theaters include the Wheaton Theatre in Wheaton and the Grand Theatre in Alton.

What You Can Do


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Additional Links





National Register for Historic Places







Landmarks Illinois
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Suite 2020
Chicago, IL 60602-3402
tel. 312-922-1742 
fax 312-922-8112



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