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Smoot Theatre


Built in 1926 by the Smoot Amusement Company to showcase acts on the vaudeville circuit, the Smoot Theatre in Parkersburg was packed for five shows daily during the Roaring ’20s. Performers included Singer’s Midgets, a troupe of miniature comedians, chorus girls, and musicians; the Hilton Sisters, Siamese twins joined at the back, playing saxophone and piano; and Guy Lombardo’s big band. Silent and talking films came to the Smoot when Warner Brothers took over in 1930. During a screening of ‘‘Frankenstein,’’ an ambulance and nurses were stationed outside for patrons feeling faint, and audience members, determined to get their money’s worth, moved to the balcony during the flood of 1937 as water rose in the lower section.

The 720-seat Smoot served as a movie theater until 1986, but its former opulence had long faded. Destined for demolition in 1989, the theater was rescued by a citizen group headed by former band director Felice Jorgeson, who led the restoration and artistic vision. The refurbished theater features gold-gilt art deco designs on the walls and ceiling; mauve, jade, blue, and beige stained-glass chandeliers; gold leaf around the proscenium; new mahogany and brass doors; and a hand-cut Austrian crystal chandelier in the lobby. In the final decade of the 20th century, the Smoot Theatre hosted performances by Wynton Marsalis, Vince Gill, Peter Nero, Tom Chapin, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Wheeling Symphony, Vienna Boys Choir, and the Presidential Orchestra of the Russian Federation. The Smoot Theatre, located at 213 Fifth Street, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Written by H. G. Young III

Sources

  1. Starcher, Lisa. Rebirth of Parkersburg's Historic Smoot Theatre. Wonderful West Virginia, (Apr. 1993).