Capitol Theatre, Wheeling
One of the premiere performance venues in West Virginia, Wheeling's Capitol Theater awed thousands who were fortunate enough to attend the grand opening of the million-dollar theater on Thanksgiving Day, 1928. Like many of the leading theaters and hotels constructed in the early 20th century, this venue was designed to be "fireproof" using modern building techniques, durable fire-resistant materials, and numerous safety measures. The auditorium had 3,000 seats and two balconies. The theater saw decreasing attendance in the later 20th century and closed for several years. Local citizens, together with government leaders and tourism and preservation groups, came together to prevent the building from suffering the same fate of many other historic downtown theaters. After several years of raising funds and performing the work of restoration, the Capitol Theater reopened in 2009.
Backstory and Context
The building's original plans called for an eight-story hotel above the theater. However, the decision not to build the hotel was made after the theater was completed.
The Capitol Theater was the idea of John Papulias. He served as President of Tri-State amusements and after building a theatre in nearby Steubenville, he felt Wheeling needed a place to have shows and performances. The Capitol Theatre Company was introduced. Lee C Paull served as president and with help from architecture master Charles W Bates made the Capitol Theatre possible. The name “The Capitol” could’ve been brought about two different ways. One, Wheeling was temporally the capital of West Virginia. Also, theaters around the nation were also famously being named “the Capitol.” On March 28, 1927, the land for the capitol theatre was sold and work begun. The products used to build the theatre steel etc were supplied by local Wheeling suppliers. The architect had also previously created other Wheeling landmarks. Two men were badly injured during the construction of the theatre. On November 29, 1928, the capitol opened letting the first customers in. 15,000 people attended the show that day. The Capitol theatre brought great joy. The lobby, along with its two box offices, was to be on the second floor and the entrance on the north side of the building. The theater was equipped with projectors designed for silent films as well as "talkies" and seats for the four shows cost a total of $0.60 in the early years of the Capitol.
On October 6, 1929, the Wheeling Symphony Society played their first performance at the Capitol. On April 1, 1933, the first Jamboree was held and at the theater and broadcast live by WWVA radio. Theater also had a ballroom and hosted many weddings, dances, and other social events.
After the theater reopened in October 2009 after being closed for two years and still provides nationally touring acts and local performances, like the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra.
The Capitol Theatre continues to bring great joy and has been up-kept by historians, conservationists, and Wheeling’s own. Performances continue to happen at the Capitol Theatre and it is still in great shape today.
“Capitol Theatre | Capitol Music Hall.” Wheeling History > Capitol Theatre | Capitol Music Hall | Ohio County Public Library, www.ohiocountylibrary.org/wheeling-history/capitol-theatre-|-capitol-music-hall/5466#books.
Capitol Theatre. West Virginia Historical Theatre Trail. Accessed March 15, 2017. https://wvhistorictheaters.com/region-4-north/capitol-theatre/.