Statehouse awards $1M to theatre

As part of “Saturday Mornings at The Murphy” held in the summer on the second floor of the Murphy Theatre building, young people take part in Charlie’s Bucket Band. There they learn drum-line style rhythms on buckets, pots and pans. This shows some of the participants at the June 20 first rehearsal.

WILMINGTON — The new state budget provides $1 million for historical preservation of the Murphy Theatre.

The Ohio operating budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 awards $500,000 in each fiscal year to the theatre in downtown Wilmington.

“It’s a great day for the Murphy Theatre,” said Cindy Camp, member of the theatre’s board of trustees. “We’re very elated.”

The funds will go toward making the 97-year-old building water-tight.

“Our goal is to water tight the theatre, and secure as much money through grants and donations toward that goal. This will go a long way in helping our efforts,” she said Tuesday.

The overall project, she said, is $1.5 million.

Support in the Legislature may have received a boost when many state legislators were in town in late February for Gov. John Kasich’s State of the State address at Roberts Centre near Wilmington.

There was a visitors reception that day at the Murphy Theatre prior to the governor’s evening speech. Legislators from Columbus had a chance to go through the building.

“They [state lawmakers] were very awed. I’m sure it played a big part in their understanding our cause,” said Camp.

The mission of the non-profit corporation is “to preserve the historic Murphy Theatre as a place to inspire, enrich and entertain our community,” according to the theatre’s website.

Speaker of the Ohio House Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville, 91st District) said Tuesday, “Earlier this year, members of the General Assembly had the opportunity to visit and tour the Murphy Theatre, which has been an integral part of Wilmington’s history for almost a century.

“The funding allocated in this budget will help preserve and restore the theatre so that future generations can continue to enjoy it for many more years to come,” said Rosenberger.

The theatre website states Charles Webb Murphy opened his newly built theatre in his hometown of Wilmington in July 1918.

“The theatre acted as the heart of downtown in those early days playing host to vaudeville, lectures, minstrel shows, movies, high school graduations, band concerts, plays and even church services,” says the website.

In 1985, descendants of Murphy decided to sell the theatre. A local group began an effort to save the theatre by selling stock options to fund the purchase, states the website.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.