Foundation seeking labor, donations to reopen historic Miner’s Theatre, built in 1918 with donations from local union coal miners

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THE HISTORIC MINER'S THEATRE was built through donations from local union coal miners. It opened in December 1918, but has been closed in recent years because of code violations and the need for ADA improvements. Local and area unions are donating their work and some supplies to help make more than $2 million in improvements so the theatre can reopen for live plays and musical performances. – Labor Tribune photo

By ROBERT KELLY
Correspondent

Collinsville, IL — Efforts to restore and reopen the historic Miner’s Theatre in downtown Collinsville got a needed boost Dec. 30 with an open house, tours and brief ceremony marking the theatre’s 100th anniversary.

The iconic three-story brick and stone theatre building at 204 West Main Street was built in 1918 with donations from local union coal miners. Collinsville was a leading coal mining center at the time.

Over the years, the theatre has been used for live stage plays and musical productions and also has been a movie theatre. But it was closed to the public nearly a decade ago because of some code violations and the need to make major improvements to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Total cost for the needed renovations is estimated at about $2 million.

FOND MEMORIES

Scores of area residents and others who have fond memories of the Miner’s Theatre attended the open house, taking tours and viewing videos of the building and some of the historic events that have been held there.

They also heard pitches to donate to complete the improvements from members of the nonprofit Miner’s Institute Foundation, which is overseeing the restoration effort.

SKILLED LABOR NEEDED

“If you have any labor skills, believe me, we have a list of things to be done,” said Vicki Borror, president and treasurer of the Foundation.

Borror asked those without the time or ability to do any of the restoration work to donate to help pay for needed materials and skilled labor.

The Foundation hopes to reopen the theatre on a limited basis within the next year, she said.

SON OF A COAL MINER

Randy L. Mitchell, director of architecture for AAIC Inc. architects in Collinsville, said his firm was working closely with the Foundation to plan and help carry out remodeling at the Miner’s.  “It is still a great place,” he said.  “It just needs some more TLC.”

Mitchell said his father was a coal miner while he was growing up in the mining town of Sesser in Southern Illinois.  Many other mining families have deep connections to the union miners who built the theater by withholding one percent of their wages for the project.

“Structurally, the building is still good,” he said.

UNION ELECTRICIANS

Union electricians from IBEW Local 309 signatory contractor J.F. Electric Co. of Edwardsville recently completed work upgrading the theatre’s fire alarm system, which was the last stumbling block to opening the main floor, Borror said.  The union electrical workers donated a lot of time and some materials to finish the nearly $80,000 project, she said.

More than 400 seats on the main floor will be available soon for local productions, Borror said, adding, “The goal during the next year is to do smaller programs and productions.”

HISTORIC REGISTER

The Miner’s Theatre building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. It was named a Collinsville Progress Historic Landmark in 1993 and a city of Collinsville Historic Landmark in 2013.

DONATE OR VOLUNTEER

Anyone interested in donating or volunteering to help with the restoration project can contact Foundation officials at 618-972-4236 or email MinersInstitute@gmail.com. Donations also can be made online at app.simplifygive.com/Z12KRV.

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