It was a first for the state and a much welcomed reward. The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet announced Tuesday that they're giving The Columbia Theatre in Paducah a $49,000 grant. The money will come from The Clean Commonwealth Fund.
Like many buildings built back then, The Columbia Theatre has asbestos. This grant will help pay to get rid of it. The theater was built in 1927, but closed 60 years later. Since then, the building has been empty and conditions have gone down hill. But, it hasn't lost all of its original appeal.
The grant means everyone has come a step closer to being able to sit in a plush chair with some popcorn or candy and watch the silver screen light back up for the first time in decades. It's an experience one woman said she remembers back when a quarter was all it cost to catch a show.
"Oh yeah, you don't call it the movies," said Beth DeVillez. The time she spent in the theater seats meant much more to her than that. Coming to The Columbia Theatre was a treat during a time before dust and decay took over. "It was like walking into a palace, you might say. They had it... it was so well decorated," she said.
The memories don't stop there. DeVillez said, "In Wuthering Heights, I took my sister who is five years younger than I... of course that's when I was probably no more than 14. She started crying. The usher told her to quit crying, or he would put her out of a movie! That's a true story." That's just one of many flashbacks DeVillez sees when she looks at what once was and imagines what it could, once again, be for the community. "I think anything that could be brought downtown would help."
The Columbia Club is spearheading the effort to bring The Columbia Theatre back in downtown Paducah. About two weeks ago, The Community Foundation of West Kentucky donated $25,000.
You can learn more about the Columbia Club by clicking here.