Woodward Theater Wins Grant to Restore Historic Marquee

The Woodward as it now looks. The historic marquee will be reconstructed in 2018 with funding from American Express through the 'Vote Your Main Street' project.
The Woodward as it now looks. The historic marquee will be reconstructed in 2018 with funding from American Express through the ‘Vote Your Main Street’ project.

Photo Credit: Phil Armstrong

Cincinnati Preservation is proud to announce its entry in the Partners in Preservation: Main Streets campaign, the Woodward Theater, will be receiving a $150,000 grant to restore its historic 1913 electric marquee.

Thanks to everyone who voted, The Woodward finished eighth among 25 sites nationwide which were vying for $2 million in grant funding from American Express to Main Street districts in need of preservation support across America. In all, the ten sites with the most votes will receive funding.

“It has been amazing to watch the Cincinnati preservation community rally to the challenge by voting for our entry, The Woodward Theater,” says Paul Muller, CPA executive director. “The marquee is the last missing piece of the 1913 facade, by rebuilding it, the theater will add vitality to Main Street just as it did at the dawn of the age of electricity.”

Dan McCabe, one of the Woodward Theater owners was a great partner. Dan notes “It has been an absolute honor representing Cincinnati in this national contest! Cincinnatians have an unique understanding of the value of celebrating and preserving history. From our first-ever major league baseball team, the oldest open-air market at Findlay, the birthplace of rock-n-roll at Cincinnati’s King Records…. to the amazing wealth of historic architecture throughout our city. We know our stuff.” McCabe manages the theater with a community based approach and appreciated the outpouring of support. He commented “It’s been invigorating working within a community that has such a depth of knowledge of it’s history and it’s value. Other cities have a lot to learn from us. Thank You Cincinnati!”

“This win would not have possible without broad support” said Muller, “Here at Cincinnati Preservation Association we are very grateful for the support (and votes) from our friends at Cincinnati Preservation Collective, the Over-the-Rhine Foundation and the public!”

The work to rebuild the historic marquee will begin in mid 2018.

The project will include restoration of The Woodward’s 52 historic rosettes, much needed facade electrical upgrades and the cleaning of the porcelain brick. The result will be a complete return of The Woodward Theater as a beacon on Main Street and a truly unique showcase of Cincinnati’s historic architectural heritage.

The Woodward is a rare surviving example of an early moving picture theater. Opened 1913 as a silent movie house in the Over-the-Rhine, it continued in that role until 1933.

The glazed white brick facade and marquee were illuminated extensively, pushing the limits of 1913 technology into a new era. After decades of intervening uses, include auto sales, grocery and antique storage, it returned to theater use in 2013. Considering the range of uses, the architectural elements are, with the exception of the missing marquee, remarkably intact.

The owners worked closely with preservationists and the OTR community and the theater is now a vital center of entertainment and community activity. This place matters because, since it reopened in 2014, it has added vitality to Main Street, sustains many non-profit initiatives, and shows us the Woodward could really light up the street…even in 1913!