2016 Preservation at its Best, Small Commercial: State Theatre
The State Theatre—originally called the New Graham—opened in 1893. The theatre holds the Guinness World Record as the oldest continuously operating cinema theatre, having been in operation since May 14, 1897.
The rehabilitation included removal of the blonde street level brick and exposing the original arcade storefront. Existing stain glass windows were found buried in the wall above the theatre’s entry doors. Much of the original stained glass was intact and gave cues to original colors of glazing and trim paint.
The preservation of State Theatre is a celebration of structure and rural community. The theatre is part of the Washington Downtown Historic District and acts as a time capsule for architecture, entertainment and technology. While it continues to play first-run movies, the theatre itself is scheduled to be the subject of an upcoming documentary.
As preservationists, we are always looking to the secretary standards of the interior standards for rehabilitation. Those guidelines clearly state that a property shall be used for its historic purpose or be placed in a new use that requires minimal change.
Theaters are particularly difficult to sensitively repurpose, so the judging panel was thrilled to see reinvestment in Washington’s State Theater—preserving the hometown theater for future generations and rehabilitating this community gathering place to it’s former glory.
Preservation Iowa’s two most visible programs are Iowa’s Most Endangered and Preservation at Its Best. These two programs work well together because being listed as Most Endangered often times leads to awareness, a preservation effort, and a high-quality, award winning project.
The full list of Preservation Iowa’s 2016 Preservation at its Best award winners includes: