Arts group plans to renovate Maryville theater

MARYVILLE (AP) — Plans are afoot to restore the historic Third Street building in downtown Maryville that houses the Rose Theater.

The Nodaway Community Theater Company currently owns the downstairs performance space and now plans to purchase the upper story as well.

An early summer storm damaged the roof, and theater company member Nina Dewhirst said the resulting leaks flooded the lower floor.

She said that’s when the community theater group decided it might be a good idea to purchase the rest of the building.

The structure was previously shared by four owners and is divided into three store fronts downstairs plus the vacant upstairs. The other downstairs spaces were not damaged by the roof leaks.

Further damage occurred during a major hail and wind storm in August that shattered 16 upstairs windows. This was shortly after the building was threatened by a large fire at the corner of Third and Main.

Dewhirst and other theater company members say they are working toward the proposed restoration with “20/20 vision.” The phrase refers to the goal of completing renovations by 2020.

“You want it to happen fast,” said company member Liz Mandrick said. “But it is a process, and it has just begun.”

The brick building was constructed in 1870, and the 2020 goal would coincide with its sesquicentennial.

At one time, the upstairs served as the meeting lodge for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization. It also housed a local group of Freemasons.

Dewhirst has been collecting Odd Fellows memorabilia in honor of the former tenants and intends to create a museum theater patrons can visit.

When the Dewhirst and others first looked upstairs they found an old neon sign, probably from the 1920s, reading IOOF, which stands for International Order of Odd Fellows.

Two sets of doors upstairs open onto the so-called Grand Room, where fraternal meetings were held. There are outer and inner doors, which apparently blocked off the area to which only members were admitted.

The 1,700-square-foot Grand Room has seen better days, but a certain amount of elegance can still be seen under the dust. The ceiling is a full one-and-a-half stories tall and is adorned with metal tiles stamped with ornate designs.

Eight-foot windows offer a view onto Third Street and beyond, though most are now boarded up. The entire floor is oak, some of which will have to be replaced.

“I think preserving the building is important,” Dewhirst said. “It has been neglected over the years, and that is sad. I just see the beautiful possibility of what it could be.”

The theater company has hired architect Richard Ross and contractor Bill Driskell to handle the project. The goal is to bring the building back to its original state as far as is possible.

Work has started, but there is much to be done. Proposed improvements include a new staircase, additional exits and a wheelchair lift. When completed, the Grand Room will seat 175 theater-goers.

The company is in the process of applying for grants to help fund the renovation.

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