Massac Theater

Quick Stats

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Historic Significance

Located adjacent to the town square, the Massac Theatre, designed by O.W. Steigemeyer in 1938, was once proclaimed the “finest in Southern Illinois.” This Art Deco architectural gem closed as a movie house in 1978.

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Threat at Time of Listing - 2010

Thirty years of neglect left the theater severely damaged and without a roof when it was finally acquired by the City of Metropolis in 2007. While the original interior was deemed unsalvageable, the exterior and majority of the lobby remained structurally sound. The community rallied around the historic theater, creating the nonprofit Save The Massac to help find a solution.

By 2010, a city-initiated task force was also working on reuse solutions. One option was to construct a new theater inside the outer shell, meeting the needs of the local school district, which lacked a large assembly space. However, a serious fundraising campaign was needed to pay for a feasibility and reuse study. To help shine a light and catalyze support to save this important structure, Landmarks Illinois worked with local advocates to place the Massac Theater on its 2010 Most Endangered list. “This is one of the state’s most significant Art Deco-style theaters,” said Jim Peters, former President & CEO of Landmarks Illinois in 2010. “What it needs now is some economic help to save it.”

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Preservation Efforts

In 2012, these efforts came to fruition when Larry Ward, manager of actress Noel Neill, who portrayed Lois Lane in the 1950s TV show “Adventures of Superman,” purchased the theater from the City. Ward had long been a fan of Metropolis’ annual Superman Celebration, which takes place in the town square just next to the Massac Theater. Ward helped to remove the debris and replace the roof before selling the building to Save the Massac in 2013. The group managed to pay of its mortgage of the building in late 2015.

By 2016, the group had prepared floor plans and artist’s renderings of the rehabilitated Massac Theater as it began fundraising efforts to reopen the building as a community center. A grant from Landmarks Illinois’ Preservation Heritage Fund in 2017 helped to complete structural repairs to the west wall of the theater, while a Creative Placemaking Grant from the Delta Regional Authority assisted in overall renovation efforts. Today, Save the Massac continues its impressive fundraising and renovation efforts with great support from local residents and leaders. The grassroots work done by the community to restore this historic theater, “helps you continue to have faith in the drive of the American people, volunteerism and looking at projects that most people would walk away from and say ‘we can do this,’” said Congressman John Shimkus on a recent tour. Citizens of Metropolis look forward to reopening this center of community activity in coming years.

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

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