Clifton Forge Arts and Preservation

What are the goals for the initiative?

The Town of Clifton Forge, Virginia is in the western part of the state near West Virginia. The rural Allegany Highlands features some of the most beautiful forest lands interspersed with lakes and state parks. Thanks to a collaboration among a number of partners, two magnificent performance venues have been added as a community and economic development catalyst for the downtown and the region.

Project specifics: Masonic Theatre Renovation

The Mason Hall and Opera House was the oldest continuously operated theater in the Commonwealth of Virginia from its construction in 1905 until a temporary closing in 1987. Eventually it came into the possession of the Town of Clifton Forge in 2003. The task of restoring the facility was given to the Masonic Theatre Preservation Fund in 2009. The grand reopening was July 2016.

The three-story Beaux Arts brick building with pilastered façade is an architectural treasure. In it's heyday, the performance hall hosted legends such as political orator William Jennings Bryan and entertainers Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, Burl Ives, the Drifters, and the world famous Count Basie Orchestra. The renovation has rehabilitated all four floors of the Theatre, the third floor ballroom, warming kitchen, and studios, the balcony level with offices and conference room, the auditorium with stage and lobby, and the lower level dressing rooms, concessions and underground lounge that looks out onto Smith Creek.

Project specifics: Amphitheatre

The earlier project, completed in June 2012, is the Masonic Amphitheatre and Park. It is the result of contributions from 16 architecture students who were part of a Design/Build LAB team from Virginia Tech under the direction of award-winning architects, Keith and Marie Zawistowski. The work to transform a lot occupied by a tire warehouse was completed in six weeks with support from an army of volunteers, local contractors and community foundations.

 A significant part of the project's success was the series of agreements to relocate the Wholesale Tire Company (WTC), thus freeing up the existing space for the amphitheater. The Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corp. organized the transactions to relocate Wholesale Tire, purchase a new building by the county for use by WTC, and the transfer of the original warehouse to the theater foundation.

The Theatre shows independent films and movie marathons. There is programming for all ages, including concerts, variety shows, dance, musicals, and local performing groups. The Theatre also provides space for arts groups, civic organizations, churches, and clubs.    Funding   As a community asset, the performance programming runs the range from children-focused library programs to music and stage plays to weekend flea markets. An important component of the programming is on affordability. Some events are free, and those that aren't cost $5 or $10. The most expensive ticket to date has been for folk duo Robin and Linda Williams, which ran $15.   For the historic theatre, a total of $6.5 million was raised to rehabilitate this building gathered from a combination of historic and new markets tax credits, grants, and private donations.   For the new amphitheater, The Allegheny Foundation contributed in $150,000, which became the entire budget for the project.

Resources

www.historicmasonictheatre.com

NLC Contact

City Solutions and Applied Research

brooks@nlc.org

(Last updated December 2016)