PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) – A theater more than 100 years old is now apparently ready for an encore in Peoria.
In 1920, the Madison Theatre opened downtown as a vaudeville performance hall. Over the years, it took on a variety of different identities, including a music venue, movie theater, and comedy club. But after sitting abandoned since 2003, a local group wants to bring visitors back.
Just weeks ago, the theatre was donated to the Madison Preservation Association by its former owners. With the deed in their hands, the group aims to renovate and restore the historic site to its former glory.
“Once you see what’s behind those doors, it’s really easy to get really passionate about it really fast,” says Cody Giebelhausen, the group’s secretary.
Estimates for the overhaul don’t come cheap, with an estimated $35 million price tag. Still, the association is optimistic about bringing tourism back to the River City through the effort. For Giebelhausen, there’s one goal in mind.
“Getting people inside of there and realizing, ’Wow, this is still in our community, and how cool would this be to have back,’” he says.
But inside, the visions of grandeur seem distant. The ceiling is crumbling, the roof is leaking, and plaster needs repair. That’s on top of damage from a 2016 fire. To cover the cost, they’ll have some help from the city.
Senior Development Specialist with the City of Peoria Cesar Suarez is working with the Association to find funds for the project.
“When we knew they were going for it, we thought, ‘Wow, this could be it, this could be the true turnaround,’” he says.
Giebelhausen tells us they aim to open up tours for the theatre in the spring, with the goal of becoming fully reopened in 2024.
“It’s all about the event space, and bringing the cool factor to our downtown, and I think this does that,” Suarez adds.
The Preservation Association is also looking for any historical record residents have on the Madison, mainly photos, to try and get a better idea of what the venue looked like in its heyday. If you have any, you can send them in at email@example.com.
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