We’re pleased to share another great Preservation Month update! The 2011 Pennsylvania At Risk Hanover Theater (also known as the State Theater) will be purchased by Hanover Borough (York County). The Hanover Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) (formed in 2021), worked closely with the York County Economic Alliance to put together a successful deal and the work now begins to find an investor and/or developer with the vision to successfully reinvigorate the building and block.
Scroll down to read the full announcement from Hanover Borough.
Preservation Pennsylvania has worked toward finding a positive outcome for this site since listing the theater on Pennsylvania At Risk in 2011. We worked with Preservation Pennsylvania business member Mark Shermeyer of SAArchitects to develop a feasibility study that detailed costs and potential uses for the building. We featured it on the real estate page of our website and, using the study, we worked with several interested buyers over the years.
The announcement was greeted with enthusiasm and sparked fond memories from local residents on the borough’s social media. MM shared “My late husband and I had our first date there back in September of 1959,” while another local resident recalled seeing Disney’s “Bedknobs and Broomsticks.” Our own Mindy Crawford remembers her dad taking her to see “Mary Poppins” when she was just four and, years later, seeing “Jaws” on her first date.
History of the Hanover Theater
Originally known as the State Theater, the Hanover Theater began its 58-year run as a movie and live performance venue on September 21, 1928. The building was designed by architect William Harold Lee, who was involved in the design of over 80 theaters. He designed the Theater using elements of the Spanish Colonial Revival and Moderne styles that were popular for buildings of the day. It was built of brick with a limestone façade, extensive ornamental plasterwork on the interior, and had 973 seats at its opening. The interior was designed by Arthur Brounet, who was known for his extravagant murals and paintings. It is one of only two complete Brounet decorated theaters still standing. While it is not known if any of Brounet’s murals exist beneath paint added during renovations, he did design the elaborate plaster details that adorn the theater’s elegant interior.
The theater is very well known in the community and sits in the heart of downtown along one of Hanover’s main streets. The Hanover Theater is a contributing element of the National Register listed Hanover Historic District.
Main Streets and Main Stages
Success stories from across the commonwealth illustrate the ways that a downtown theater can be a catalyst for revitalization. The Lamp Theater (Irwin County), the Ambler Theater (Montgomery County), the County Theater (Bucks County), the Colonial Theater (Chester County), the Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (Chester County), and so many more examples have been a boon for creating excitement and spurring Main Street visitation. Patrons enjoy the more personalized scale and decorative details that historic theaters offer instead of the “big box blankness” of national chains. Restoration of the Ambler Theater spurred a Main Street revival with the opening of numerous restaurants and businesses to serve those coming to meetings and movies. The Uptown! in West Chester has become a cultural hub offering music, theater, summer camp opportunities, and more while the Colonial in Phoenixville hosts the annual “Blobfest,” a three day festival centered on celebration of the 1958 cult classic “The Blob” that was filmed nearby. We look forward to see the transformation of the Hanover Theater!
Read “10 Steps for Restoring Historic Theaters” from the National Trust for Historic Preservation
10 Steps from the National Trust
May 9, 2022 Announcement from Hanover Borough
HANOVER ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION ACQUIRES THE FORMER STATE THEATER
As they say in the business, “The show must go on…”and recently, the Hanover Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) took a step closer to making that a reality in Hanover. For far too long, the State Theater, located on historic Frederick Street in Hanover, has sat empty and cold. Originally opened in 1928, the theater had a rich history in the performing and film arts. However, changes in the industry and ownership, as well as an uncertain future, left the theater sitting idle. It was only logical that when the HEDC was formed in early 2021, one of their first projects was to try and find a way to secure a future for the theater. Working closely with the York County Economic Alliance and through the generosity of the J. William Warehime Foundation, HEDC approached the owner and was able to negotiate a purchase agreement to buy the theater. “The State Theater is an iconic fixture in the Hanover community, and the time has come to help it again become a cultural and social asset,” said Oliver Hoar, HEDC Chairman.
When Preservation Pennsylvania listed the theatre on the 2011 “Pennsylvania At Risk” list, it did so with the belief that patience and creativity would lead to the right owner and use for this historic resource, a contributing property in the Hanover National Register Historic District. Many of Hanover’s residents, past and present, have attended movies and performances in this building, creating memories that connect them to this special place. “We are so pleased to learn that the HEDC is acquiring this historic building and will be working to secure its future. Finding the right use and owner takes time but when an At Risk place is finally marked “saved,” it is a day for celebration!” said Margaret Wallis, Board Chair of Preservation Pennsylvania.
Work will now begin on identifying an investor/developer who can provide a solid vision and strategy to make the best use of the property. The opportunities for the site to be a visitor destination for entertainment and event gatherings are tremendous. The timing is also perfect as the Borough is continuing its momentum to begin the next phase of the 2019 Streetscape Feasibility Study which looks to make street level improvements to Hanover’s downtown core, benefitting both local and far-reaching businesses. Certainly, the stage is set for a new show in town. And, as they say in the business, “Lights. Camera. Action!”