The Monroe Theatre: A Renaissance Unfolding
Traveling through many towns across Ohio, individuals see the unmistakable vestiges of early 20th century movie theaters. These structures often evoke images of classic movies, Saturday cowboy matinees and live performances. Some of these theaters remain alive, while others appear forgotten. However, the historic Monroe Theatre, in Woodsfield, Ohio, is experiencing a robust renaissance after its 45-year closure.
The Monroe Theatre, built by Mena Fliehman, opened its recognizable Art Deco doors in December 1939, as both a movie theater and stage for musicians. Many of these performers are considered pillars of bluegrass and country music, proven by their appearances at the Grand Ole Opry and inductions into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Performers such as Bill Monroe, Tex Ritter, Flatt & Scruggs, and an unknown teenager later known as Patsy Cline and others took to the same stage being used today at the Theatre.
The Monroe Theatre was a frequent stop for these performers on their way to Wheeling, West Virginia’s WWVA Jamboree. As times changed, the Monroe Theatre became solely a theater closing in 1977. Since 2019, however, the Theatre’s trademark doors are open again, welcoming back audiences.
When the Monroe Arts Council, a 50(c)3, acquired the Monroe Theatre in 2016, it became eligible for state and local grant dollars essential for the restoration. These and private donations made the following renovations possible.
*December 2019 – Four furnaces were installed; prior to this, patrons brought blankets and the Theatre closed during the winter.
*Summer 2020 – The auditorium ceiling was insulated through a community campaign, Purchase a Roll.
*May 2021 – A concession stand / box office was added. A bistro is planned for the future.
*August 2021 – Two ADA family restrooms were completed; until this time, no restroom facilities were available.
*Summer 2022 – Air conditioning was installed and awaiting electrical upgrades.
*September 2022 – Roof replacement, vital masonry work and window replacement begin. This was possible through a 2020 Community Development Block Grant totaling $280,000.
*A balcony addition is slated for the Theatre’s future made possible through an Appalachian Regional Commission grant in the amount of $345,000. Other work to be completed includes replacement of the ceiling, a sprinkler system and seating.
History is still being made at the historic Monroe Theatre; experience the renaissance unfolding. For information, visit the Facebook page or call the box office at 1-740-213-5757.
The Monroe Theatre