Wednesday, September 5, 2012
WalkLex: The Kentucky Theatre remains ‘most important cultural, civic space’ in city
By Peter Brackney
The familiar marquee on Main Street identifies the only remaining of Lexington’s great, old theaters. Named as “a credit to Lexington and the entire State,” the Kentucky Theatre opened in 1922. At the time, the Kentucky was one of several theaters in the community of 40,000. The Ben Ali and the Strand also welcomed moviegoers, but none with the grandeur that was offered at the Kentucky Theatre. With its original space intact, the Kentucky Theatre is described by Steve Brown (President, Kentucky’s Mighty Wurlitzer) as “the most important cultural and civic space in the city.”
The ceiling originally featured a massive stained glass dome which was complimented with back-lighting that changed with the “mood” of the film. To the best of anyone’s recollection, the stained glass was removed because the promoters of The Sound of Music thought that the glass dome had an adverse effect on acoustics. The Kentucky was designed for motion pictures and even was capable of showing the new “talkies”; the theatre was one of the first fifty theaters in America to feature sound. All these special effects, all in 1922.
And all in a beautiful Italian Renaissance styled theatre opened as the premier movie house for Lexington by the Swiddow family. Even with management changes and numerous changes in customer demands, the Kentucky Theatre has only had one pause in operation over the past 90 years.
In 1987, a neighboring restaurant experienced a fire that caused significant damage to the Kentucky. Through a dedicated group of patrons and local leaders, the Kentucky would not remain closed. A grand reopening in 1992 revealed a beautifully restored theatre that continues to receive updates. A major renovation is planned in conjunction with the theatre’s 90th anniversary. This will be coupled with the complete restoration and reinstallation of the Kentucky’s Mighty Wurlitzer organ that first played there when the theatre opened in 1922.
More text and photos at Kaintuckeean.com.
Peter Brackney has combined a love of Kentucky with an interest in history in www.kaintuckeean.com, where he shares his photos and stories about some of the unique places around the Commonwealth. Born in Ohio, he came to Kentucky at an early age and grew up in Lexington. A double alumnus of the University of Kentucky with a bachelor’s in accounting and his juris doctorate, he lives in Nicholasville with his family. Reach him at email@example.com.
Story republished from The Kaintuckeean.