It was a place where wild animals and vaudeville performers took the stage - built in 1928, the Beacon Theatre is now getting ready for a new era, as millions of dollars in renovations near completion.
The $4.2 million project will wrap up before Christmas, an effort 35 years in the making.
After the Theatre began to decay in the late 1970s, a hole in the roof let in rain and humidity. Decades of exposing the interior to the elements corroded art deco moldings and deteriorated the seating.
Now the architecture has been restored, and the seats have all been ripped out. By the time construction concludes, there will be 650 new cushioned chairs.
"There's no venue like that south of the James River," said Scott R. Firestine, regional library director of the Appomattox Regional Library System. "Our hope is it becomes an entertainment asset not only to Hopewell, but to the Tri-Cities, Chesterfield and Prince George.
The Beacon sat abandoned from 1981 to 1999. Hopewell residents tried to restore the theater to its former glory, but it wasn't until the City stepped in two years ago that renovations became a reality.
The Theatre has a wild and talented legacy - exotic animal collector and actor Frank Buck once brought animals from Africa on stage, and another adventurer put on a sold out performance.
"We had Lash Leroux here, he was a famous cowboy," Firestien said in an interview Wednesday. "He had a whip, and he would snap cigarettes out of people's mouths. He taught Indiana Jones how to crack his whip."
For now, the Beacon is beginning to gleam once again, Ready to retake the city's spotlight.
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