HOOPESTON — The Lorraine Theatre turned 92 this past April and is in need of a little tender, loving care.
A group of local residents is trying to supply that TLC by obtaining the building from MainSource Bank, which sits across the street from it.
“The main goal is to preserve the building,” said Sue Comstock, instigator of the Lorraine movement.
For the past month, the group known as Save the Lorraine Foundation has formed a non-profit organization, selected officers and a board of directors, set a plan of action for the repair and possible use of the building, and entered into negotiations with the bank’s foreclosure officer, Ryan Bond, to obtain the building.
The approximate cost of repairs will total at least $200,000, which will include free labor from volunteers, labor donated by several businesses and donations at-large from residents, alumni and interested people who hope to preserve this special piece of Hoopeston’s history.
The Lorraine was in good shape in November 2012 and into February of this year, according to Keith and Connie Catron, who previously looked into purchasing the building. However, since the bank turned off the heat in May, the theater has deteriorated to the point there is a major problem in the ceiling over the balcony, tuck pointing is needed on the outside and removal of minor mold inside.
Although members of the Lorraine Foundation hope the buildings, including Lorraine II, will be donated to them by the bank, the buildings might instead end up in a foreclosure auction. Both buildings are married together as a package. One price gets both. However, to date, no word has been received regarding the disposal of the Lorraine and its sister building Lorraine II.
A brief history
The idea for the theater was first projected and a decision reached to build the new structure in December 1920 by E. J. Boorde. The ground was broken in April 1921 at the corner of East Main and Third streets to begin the project and a roof was in place by November 1921, housing the new structure. Decorators completed the inside work by the following February and on March 6, 1922, the Lorraine Theatre opened its doors for the first time with the movie “The Great Moment,” starring Gloria Swanson. The theater’s original construction cost was nearly $100,000.
The Lorraine was later remodeled, beginning in early March 1937, into an art deco style theater by Axel J. Claesson, a theater designer from Chicago. He painted the portrait of Hoopeston hanging behind the concession as a gift to the city and the theater. The second grand opening was held October 1937.
The 92-year-old Lorraine had continuously been Hoopeston’s theater until it closed in April 2012.