POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) –
A historic landmark in downtown Poplar Bluff that is being restored is now missing one of its key features.
The tower on top of the Rogers Theatre was taken down Tuesday, but it’s not a sign the building is being torn down.
Wally Duncan, president of Rodgers Theatre Incorporated, says they’re planning to do the opposite which is to restore the tower’s steel frame and replace the lights and corrugated glass panels.
“We plan to put it back in its original condition and hoist it back up on top of the marquee, and it will be a beacon in Poplar Bluff like it was in 1949,” Duncan said. “It’s going to be impressive, and people are going to be very proud of it. I think it will renew interest in the Rodgers Theater.”
It’s part of a long-term revitalization project aiming to fully replace the theater’s marquee and replace its roof which Duncan says fell into disrepair after it was neglected over the years.
After Rodgers Theatre Inc. entered a long-term lease with Butler County, the organization started a private fundraising campaign to continue their effort to maintain and improve the theater.
Duncan says the community has raised about $100,000 for repair work and volunteers have been helping clean the inside.
“A lot of the money that has been raised over the years by necessity had to go for things like fixing a leak in the plumbing, fixing the heating and cooling system, or patching a hole in the roof to stop a leak,” Duncan said. “The donations we’ve received in the last year will be focused on repairing the marquee because that is what everybody sees.”
Marjorie Rushin grew up in Poplar Bluff and graduated from the local high school in 1954. Rushin remembers going to see movies with friends and sitting on the balcony and says she is excited to see work underway at the theater.
“It’s overwhelming,” Rushin said. “It will bring a lot to downtown because this is the main highway going in and out. It’s a lot of happy memories. It’s heritage. It’s part of Poplar Bluff.”
Rushin says a lot of groups and businesses have contributed to the project including her graduating class of 54’ which collected $2,500.
“People that grew up here should take an interest. Now that it’s on the way for improvement, let’s get going,” she said.
The Rodgers Theatre is currently being used as a performance venue for music concerts, plays, the occasional movie screening and other types of performers.
Duncan says it fills a ‘niche’, giving local artists a 1,000 seat stage to perform on and thinks saving the artistic building is worth the time and money.
“It’s an art deco style structure,” Duncan said. “There is not another place like the Rodgers Theatre in the world. In its day it was probably the finest theatre between St. Louis and Memphis.”
Those interested in contributing to ‘Rescue the Rodgers’ can donate on the theatre’s website.
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