Delaware County Council Attends Restoration Kick Off for Historic Lansdowne Theater

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Released: July 26, 2023

Delaware County Council Chair Dr. Monica Taylor and Vice Chair Elaine Paul Schaefer, Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, State Senator Tim Kearney, Lansdowne Mayor Magda Byrne, and other elected officials were thrilled to join Matt Schultz, Executive Director of the Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation (HLTC), and donors and representatives from a variety of supporting organizations at a restoration kick off for the historic Lansdowne Theatre on July 24.

Efforts to restore the historic theater, led by Schultz and supported with grants from the County and State, have been ongoing for over a decade.

“Council is absolutely thrilled to see this amazing theater start to return to its former glory,” said Council Chair Dr. Taylor. “The investment into the theatre will revitalize the surrounding area, create jobs, and will breathe new life into the community.”

Delaware County Council was able to support restoration efforts through allocation of $2.5M grant through the American Rescue Plan Act, and an additional $570,489 in block grants by way of the Delaware County Office of Housing and Community Development, through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This investment, combined with $1.5M federal earmark co-introduced by Senator Casey and Congresswoman Scanlon — in combination with significant donations from over 1,000 individuals and private groups including the Foundation for Delaware County, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Connelly Foundation, The Dapplecroft Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation, The Presser Foundation, the Greater Lansdowne Civic Association, Ethel Sergeant Clark Smith Memorial Find and the National Trust for Historic Preservation — has boosted efforts to restore and revive the theater.

“Delaware County Council, under Dr. Taylor’s leadership, has been steadfast in its support of the Lansdowne Theater Project recognizing the potential to catalyze private investment nearby the theater and to create jobs. The theater will be a major player in the efforts of the county to grow the tourism industry in the county,” said HLTC Executive Director Matt Schultz.

Additional financial support Commonwealth of PA (Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program ($4M), the Department of Community and Economic Development ($1M), Commonwealth Financing Authority ($200,000), PA Historical and Museum Commission ($124,000), the DELCO Interactive Gaming Revenue Authority ($25,000), and the Borough of Lansdowne (in the form of permit and easement fee relief of $200,000).

“We took on this project because we want to preserve this landmark building and recognized the potential of the project to spur economic development throughout the business district. We are excited to partner with a concert promoter to bring nationally and internationally known musicians to enliven not only the building, but the surrounding neighborhood,” said Schultz.

The historic and beautiful Hollywood Moorish-style 1,280-seat theater was a regional hub for the arts for decades since it first opened in 1927, just before the advent of the “talkies,” during the height of the ‘roaring twenties.’

The first feature was the silent film “Knockout Riley,” starring Richard Dix, and over the decades the theater showed countless films and occasional live performances. On July 3, 1987, an electrical fire broke out in the basement during a showing of Beverly Hill Cops II, and the theater hasn’t been used since.

The theater, once fully restored, will reopen as a major concert venue, expected to attract 100,000 patrons annually. The theater is also expected to have a significant impact locally, spurring additional investment and bolster local restaurants in Lansdowne, Clifton Heights, Upper Darby, Havertown, and other nearby communities. HLTC representatives project that over 100 jobs will be created during the construction phase, and approximately 75 jobs after construction either directly in the theater or among businesses that are expected to spring up within the area of the theater.

Plans include the preservation and restoration of the architectural integrity of the theater, the historic lighting fixtures – including the grand chandelier – and other architectural finishes. New theater seats will match the original 1927 design, and plush draperies and stage curtains will be manufactured and installed. In addition, new and expanded restrooms, a fire suppression system, a lobby bar, a 1,500 square foot patron lounge, and a new state of the art box office will be added.

The entire roof, HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems will also be replaced. A building addition will be constructed at the rear of the historic theater to accommodate dressing and storage rooms, a kitchen, and temporary storage. The first floor of the theater and building addition will be fully ADA-compliant.

Restoring this theatre will breathe new life into the surrounding community and County Council is extremely supportive of this project and is looking forward to enjoying the theater next fall when it opens.

Restoration Project Architect: Atkin Olshin Schade Architects is the contracted restoration project architect, with engineering work being provided by Keast & Hood (structural), H. Gilroy Damon and Associates (civil), Bruce Brooks & Associates (mechanical), Accentech (A/V and Acoustics). Columbus Construction is the Construction Manager.

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Delaware County, presently consisting of over 184 square miles divided into forty-nine municipalities is the oldest settled section of Pennsylvania.

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