After sitting vacant for almost a decade, the 1938 Art Deco State Theatre of Culpeper, Va., is back in business. For years, the theatre sat abandoned, coming perilously close to demolition before being purchased by Culpeper natives Greg and Liz Yates. At the time, there was a hole in the ceiling near the stage and the building was seriously dilapidated. But thanks to a committed group of community members, led by the State Theater Foundation, a $9.3 million historic rehabilitation has raised the curtain on the former vaudeville and movie house, revealing a gorgeous 560-seat live theatre.
The rehabilitation has restored key historic elements, including the beloved neon marquee, while also installing a $1 million state-of-the-art sound system, expanding the stage, and creating a 50-seat black box theater for smaller shows. The project also retained a segregated staircase that was once for black patrons. With a year-round calendar of events, the State Theatre will bring new cultural events, economic development, and excitement to downtown Culpeper. Its entertainment and educational programming — including national touring artists and local and regional theatre, dance, music and film — will fill seats and help fuel the local economy. The project has already made a catalytic impact on downtown Culpeper, with a $3 million project by a private developer now underway to create a banquet hall that will complement the theatre’s programming.
To finance the project, the State Theatre Foundation, the theatre’s nonprofit developer, used approximately $1.6 million in federal historic tax credits, a program that since its inception has contributed more than $106 billion to rehabilitate 38,700 vacant and underutilized historic spaces and create 2.3 million jobs. The foundation also used $1.6 million in Virginia state historic tax credits.