WVSU Capitol Center

123 Summers St.
Charleston, WV
Kanawha County

Originally known as the Plaza Theatre, this elegant vaudeville venue opened in 1912. After new owners purchased the property in 1919, a remodeling occurred, with additions including a Wurlitzer pipe organ and a projector room inside and a 30 foot tall blade sign and new marquee on the exterior. It then held a grand reopening in 1921 as the Capitol Theatre, with West Virginia’s governor, Ephraim Morgan, in attendance at the screening of the theater’s first film, “The Old Nest.”  For a short time, film and vaudeville coexisted at the Capitol.  After a 1923 fire caused the auditorium roof to collapse, though, the subsequent rebuilding focused on movies, and the move away from live entertainment was furthered by the arrival of “talkies” and the property being wired for sound in the late 1920s. Another interior and exterior remodel in 1956 added Art Deco elements to the otherwise Classical Revival style theater.

In 1982, changes to the economy and to Charleston’s downtown business district – as well as competition from multiplex theaters and chains – forced the movie house to close. After its longtime nearby competitor, the 1922 Kearse Theater, was demolished in 1983 and replaced by a parking lot, locals began to worry about a similar fate for the Capitol. A partnership of 28 investors from the area thus purchased the property and reopened it in 1985 as a performing arts center called the Capitol Plaza Theater. In 1991, after the building’s outstanding debt was forgiven, it was donated to West Virginia State College (now University). Now named the WVSU Capitol Center, the space includes an 800-seat auditorium, five classrooms, and a computer lab. In addition to holding college plays, it also hosts the annual West Virginia International Film Festival and is available to rent for events. (Listed NRHP 1985)

theater reuse- WVSU Capitol Center (1)

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