Makeover aims to light up downtown
from the Quincy Herald-Whig June 3, 2008
By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- Peter Wright remembers seeing all the Disney movies and "'Star Wars' a ton of times" at the Zoe Theater in Pittsfield.
"I've always been interested in the Zoe Theater. It was definitely part of growing up here, absolutely," said Wright, who thought about buying the Zoe with a friend when he moved back to town 18 years ago.
Now the Pittsfield businessman is part of the newly-named Zoe Preservation Committee working to save the theater shuttered since the 1980s.
"We're going to work at it so it's a viable building for the city of Pittsfield and Pike County. Whether it be for Sunday family movies and some Theatre Guild productions, the guild is definitely interested," Wright said. "It's a real landmark of Pittsfield. We don't want to lose it."
Some initial clean-up work on the building that will target the exterior could be done this month -- or at least by Pig Days, slated for July 11-12.
"Our goal is to have the theater cleaned up with the windows washed and new signage about who to contact if interested in helping," said Jim Brown, who spearheaded the preservation committee. "We want to show people we're actually getting something done before Pig Days when a lot of people come through town and come back home."
Brown hopes to see work on the Zoe continue the rest of the year.
"If we can get the outside done and the marquee lit up by the end of the year, it would be ideal, and I think it's probably doable," Brown said. "With some events, private donations, we might be able to raise some money. A lot of people are interested and hopefully will part with some money."
Raising money will be key to saving the building.
"We're at the point we're going to need some help," Wright said.
Brown said a fundraising letter-writing campaign soon will be under way, and T-shirts designed with "save me" or "help me" spelled out on the theater marquee will be ready to sell also by Pig Days.
An account has been established at Farmers State Bank, and donations, or historical materials about the theater that may date back to 1920, may be sent to the committee at P.O. Box 283, Pittsfield, IL 62363.
The committee has a $17,000 bid from Tim Dunn, a St. Louis specialist, to replace the damaged panels of Vitrolite on the building's exterior. Vitrolite, a pigmented structural glass, is no longer made.
"We actually have a local contractor here who worked with it before. We have the opportunity to buy the tiles and save some money, but I don't know if we'll go that route or not," Wright said.
Brown and Wright also want to see the marquee come back to life. Decatur-based Bendsen Signs and Graphics, which installed the marquee, has looked at it and indicated new neon, light bulbs and transformers will be needed.
"The marquee is a lot bigger than people realize. It's a very large, very cool movie theater marquee," Wright said.
"If we can restore the front and the marquee, no matter what happens that will make it more pleasing for the city, but we certainly have the goal to get it back to a theater/multi-function building," Wright said. "We have a good motivated group. The city is working with us, and only positive things can come from it."