After decades of darkness, the lights are bright again at Capitol Theatre on Lebanon’s town square. Thanks to the vision and investment of Wilson County residents Bob and Pam Black, the once vacant and dilapidated theater is now a fully restored and functional entertainment venue available for all to enjoy.
Bob Black, a self-proclaimed “Air Force Brat,” grew up living all around the U.S. During travels, he could remember enjoying various 1950s historical theaters throughout the country. Upon relocating to Lebanon in 2002, Bob and Pam Black both fell in love with Capitol Theatre, linking it to fond memories from the past.
After watching the theater continue to degrade, the Blacks both began to see the opportunity before them to reclaim the theater’s former glory days, and after a call from Mayor Philip Craighead in 2009, the couple, according to Bob Black, felt like Capitol Theatre was their “chance to make a difference” for the city and county in which they resided and loved.
With extensive renovations necessary, Black said a true challenge presented itself. Trying to keep original architecture and design, while also modernizing for current codes and safety standards, meant that the work ahead would be tedious but critical in the theater’s overall success.
In the end, the hard work and dedication have resulted in a beautifully redesigned, functional, yet historically accurate space.
According to Black, at the Capitol’s grand re-opening in June, attendees were blown away with the beauty of the space.
“It was exciting to see people’s reactions,” Bob Black said. “We had purposely shut down renovation pictures to our Facebook followers to keep the surprise…The way people’s eyes lit up and mouths dropped open was very rewarding.“
The welcoming feature outside of the theater is the original marquee, and in the renovation of the lights, Black found a “moment of pride,” seeking to keep things as “people would have remembered it.”
Visitors can also see original hardwood flooring in much of the theater, as well as historic movie posters to help recreate the past. In order to help evoke those emotions, the new décor is vintage at its best, with some features, such as chandeliers, being brought all the way from California in order to provide the most accurate and stunning complement to the venue.
With the theater now fully open, Black still admits to “learning as we go” and wanting to grow slowly in order to grow right. One of the first steps in growth will be to hold Thursday night comedy to the community, as well as Sunday matinees.
Soon, Black hopes to book more theater and musical opportunities that can help boost the nightlife on Lebanon’s square.
“We have college students at Cumberland that need this. People go to Nashville for these type of events, and now we have it in Lebanon,” said Black.
Even being on the knowing end of the renovations and improvements, Black acknowledges to feeling overwhelmed at the success and beauty of the recreated space.
Right before the grand re-opening, he recalls standing on stage and looking out at the venue thinking, “Wow, just look at what we have done here, cause it is even better than I could have imagined.’”
Ultimately, the space is a wonderful addition to the city and county. From weddings and reunions to performances and plays, Capitol Theatre is a must see.
Those interested in seeing the theater’s line-up or booking the venue can learn more at capitoltheaterproject.org, by following their Facebook Page, contacting Paula Hamblin at 615-812-6086 and soon by following the theater’s Twitter handle for news and updates.