In November 1905, then Indiana Gov. Frank Hanly came to downtown Goshen for the official dedication of the $75,000 Jefferson Theater. “No city the size of Goshen,” Hanly remarked, “has so splendid a playhouse.”
Just over a year later, the proud theater in the 200 block of South Main Street, burnt to the ground. Out of those ashes, rose a new Jefferson Theater that re-opened in October 1907 and still stands today. Now known as The Goshen Theater, the partly shuttered building is again ripe for a new beginning.
WITH ITS BRIGHT, blinky marquee outside, and majestic auditorium arch inside, The Goshen Theater maintains prominent potential if cared for properly. If not, the facility risks falling rapidly into disrepair and becoming a hulking shell of blight in the heart of our city.
The building features a seating capacity of about 750 people along with a balcony, a variety of other rooms, spaces and storefronts. It also oozes with nostalgia and the warm feeling of community. There’s an “it” factor at the building’s core. It feels like a special place.
Therefore, we were delighted that the Goshen Redevelopment Commission agreed to loan $150,000 to the non-profit Goshen Theater Inc. group to help purchase the theater. The group, which started in 2010 as a task force, wants to raise money for a substantial renovation — in the neighborhood of $9.5 million — and operate the theater for years to come.
WE HAVE TO COMMEND Goshen Theater Inc. for its diligence and foresight in pursuing this important undertaking. While many may just see the dollar signs pinned to this ambitious playbill, these organizers can see the essence of this venue and the role it can play in making Goshen closer and ultimately stronger.
The current owner, Epic Ministries, is also to be commended for keeping the building operational and feasible in recent years and making every effort to ensure the theater ends up in caring and responsible hands.
With the right renovation and versatility, The Goshen Theater has the potential to wear several hats and serve many needs in the community. Versatility is the key. There’s no reason this theater can’t serve as a community hub. Municipalities elsewhere have spent tens of millions of dollars renovating lesser facilities in an effort to revitalize their downtown areas from the inside out. Goshen, with its already strong downtown business/entertainment district, is in the unique position of working from the outside in to help save this historic landmark.
THE STAKES ARE very real with this building and this is a splendid opportunity for us to strengthen our future while retaining our past. Therefore, we encourage our city leaders and all other stakeholders to make every reasonable effort to help Goshen Theater Inc. resurrect this great facility back into the community centerpiece it was always meant to be.