For the past 22 years, Friends of the Embassy has worked to save and bring back one of Lewistown's most popular and iconic places - the historic Embassy Theatre. Generations of Mifflin Countians enjoyed the finest of Hollywood fare in its interior. More than just a room with a screen on one wall, the Embassy was a miniature "Picture Palace." From its "Marquee of 1,000 lights" to the ornate interior, it was more luxurious than the other theatres in town.
But in post-war America, television took its toll on downtown theatres, such as Pastime and Rialto. The Embassy survived the wrecker's ball, and today is poised to find a new beginning in the revitalized downtown. However, the shifting landscape during the past half-century means the Embassy must expand beyond the roles envisioned when it was built. It could never survive as a single-screen theatre today, but with a mix of uses targeting different entertainment needs, it can be a valuable venue available to the community.
One of the envisioned uses for the Embassy is for local productions that need a stage, such as the "Lip Sync" contest, a talent night or the Miss Central Pennsylvania pageant. Classic films and stand-up comedy would also be a perfect fit.
Over the past several years, the Friends' focus was on maintaining the building as we prepared for the major work. This past summer, the exterior work was completed - the building has a new roof, and the exterior walls have been rehabilitated. This project was funded by a state Keystone Historic Preservation grant matched with part of a federal Save America's Treasures grant.
The next project, which is beginning this month, is to complete a Conceptual Master Plan for the interior, funded in part by a grant from the Louis J. Appel Fund for Central Pennsylvania, administered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. During this stage, an architect familiar with historic theatres will be hired to study the interior, ensuring the historic elements are preserved and restored correctly, while at the same time modifying the building for modern uses and "creature comforts." The plan also will provide preliminary floor plans for the annex, to be built in the parking lot next to the theatre. As part of the plan, artistic renditions will be created to illustrate how it will look when completed. The plan will be in progress for the next three or four months with opportunities for the public to provide input into its creation.
The final piece before moving forward is a fundraising effort to start work on the interior. Immediately, the Friends will need to raise about $250,000 to provide a match to the remaining Save America's Treasure's grant and to fund some items not covered by the grant.
As work progresses on the inside, the beauty of the Embassy will come alive again. If we can sustain the fundraising plan, the theatre could be finished and fully operational in about five years. Its new beginning is on the horizon!
Anyone who would like to be a part of this new beginning is invited to contact The Friends of the Embassy. We need some new volunteers to help with various aspects of the project. Call us at 248-0321 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.