FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Natalie Shoaf
Photos available upon request
THE PORT THEATRE WILL OPEN AGAIN
Dreams do come true! Residents of Gulf County have longed for the day the Historic Port Theatre would again open its doors. Locals still reminisce about watching movies or recalling their sweetheart’s first kiss at the theatre. Donnie Beasley recalls seeing a double feature with his mother in 1940: “Frankenstein” and “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Donnie confessed he “ didn’t sleep all night!”. This dream began to emerge into reality last week with the acquisition of the theatre by a local nonprofit group.
In June 1938, The Port Theatre opened for it first movie presentation and continued as a landmark and family-fun location until it closed around 1967. Since then, the building has fallen into disrepair, battered by time and hurricanes and has remained closed and unattended for over 48 years except for a short time when it functioned as an auction house.
In June 2003, The Port Theater was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Art Deco Style treatment of the façade is largely intact and still maintains a distinct and significant presence on the main commercial thoroughfare of Port St Joe. According to the United States Department of the Interior, the acoustics “within the three-story auditorium space is exceptional”.
Over the past six years, a group dedicated to the revitalization of the theatre has worked diligently to bring it back to the community. This small group of volunteers created a 501c3 nonprofit organization, The Port Theatre Art & Cultural Center (PTACC), which is dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of this local treasure and historic resource.
The dedication of these few have made the dreams of many come true—as of last week, the theatre is owned by the PTACC. The purchase was funded through an acquisition grant by The State of Florida, Division of Historic Resources, with additional assistance by The Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency. The Forgotten Coast Cultural Coalition (Forgotten Coast Plein Air) and
Capital City Bank awarded grants early on to assist with the creation of the nonprofit. Other individuals and organizations have stepped up with in-kind donations and financial support to make this happen: Tom Gibson of Rish Gibson Scholz P.A., Ralph Roberson and Michael McKenzie of Roberson and Associates, Matt Terry at Appraisal Group of North Florida, Shaun Donahue at Shaun Donahue Realty, Jay Rish and Natalie Shoaf, Gulf Coast Real Estate Group LLC, Tapper Foundation, Victor Ramos Photography and Sandi Yarbrought Photography. A debt of gratitude also goes out to former owner Harry Arnold for working with this non-profit to help make this acquisition happen for our community.
An ongoing outpour of support continues, and plans will begin in earnest. Architect Carter Quina of Quina Grundhoefer Architects, who specializes in historic preservation, is donating his services through conceptual design. The Board of Directors will continue to seek grants, in-kind assistance, corporate donations, and will organize a capital campaign. The renovation will be phased to open portions of the building as they are completed.
Now the love affair reignites between the theatre and the community! Help is needed in many areas. If you are interested in volunteering or donating or if you would like more information, please contact PTACC through their website, http://www.historicporttheatre.com, or email, HistoricPortTheatre@gmail.com.
Please reach out and share your memories. They would love to hear from you!
October 5, 2011
On June 20, 1938, the Port Theatre opened for its first movie presentation, and the residents of Port St. Joe have engaged in a love affair with the building ever since. People still recall the movies they saw such as “Lassie Come Home” in 1944 or “The Greatest Show on Earth” in 1952. Musicals, live theater, and community benefits and events were also held until the theatre closed around 1967. Since then, the building has fallen into disrepair, battered by time and hurricanes. While some improvements were made by recent owners Paula and Wade Clark, the building today remains closed and unattended, in stark contrast to the expressed desire and wishful thinking of many locals through the years.
In June 2003, the Port Theatre was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Even through years of neglect, the following appeared in a letter from the Florida Department of State: “To qualify forlisting in the National Register, a property must not only be shown to have a documented area of historic significance, it must also retain physical integrity. The theatre, although subjected to damage from two hurricanes, has retained its historic character. The entry, lobby, auditorium, reconstructed balcony, projection room, manager’s apartment, and circulation patterns characteristic of a public theatre remain intact.” The United States Department of the Interior notes, “The Art Deco Style treatment of the façade is largely intact and still maintains a distinct and significant presence on the main commercial thoroughfare of Port St. Joe.”Also noted are the acoustics “within the three-story auditorium space is exceptional.”
For the past two years, a steering committed dedicated to the revitalization of the historic Port Theatre hasheld meetings with local and regional stakeholders and professionals. The result is the formation of the board for the Port Theatre Art & Culture Center, a group dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of thislocal treasure and historic resource. The Articles of Incorporation have already been submitted, and the nonprofit (501 (c)(3) status will be obtained prior to the end of the year.
A collaborative framework provides a distinct difference in this effort. The Forgotten Coast Cultural Coalition has pledged start-up funds in support of an art and culture center in Gulf County. The FCCC envisions an exhibition space for their Plein Air annual event, which draws visitors from across the country. The Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency has also pledged support as the theatre is within the redevelopment area and is a major component of their planning. Revitalization of the theatre will serve as an economic generator to the downtown area as well as the entire region.
The first meeting of the PTACC Board was held last week, and Directors shared their vision for the theater:a revitalization that honors the legacy of the theatre, a multi-use facility that will serve the communityin a multitude of ways and appeals to all age groups, a cultural hub for the community, programming tounite families, a tourist attraction, a showcase for local talent, and a place to be inspired, and have fun—allaccomplished through a grass-roots community effort.
The PTACC Board looks forward to working with the community to make the dream of reopening the Port Theatre a reality. In time, opportunities will be available to serve on committees to help in the planning,design, programming, and historic preservation. In the meantime, please offer any ideas or assistance. Remembrances, oral histories, old photos and relics of the theatre would be welcome.