OSGOOD, Ind. (January 2004) From the front steps of the
house where he was born in Osgood, Ind., Bob Damm can easily see the
small towns historic theatre, located just a couple of blocks
away on Buckeye Street. The historic structure holds many fond memories
for Damm, 70. His family has owned it for more than eight decades.
by Ruth Wright
and Judy Damm
Damm and his wife, Judy, inherited the theatre from Damms mother,
Viola Damm, who operated it until her death in 1989, when it was shut
The theatre was not a moneymaker, said Damm, but his family felt a
duty to the community to keep it going. Now closed, with dust settling
on once polished surfaces, the theatre while structurally sound would
need plenty of work to be opened again. And thats exactly what
the Damms are hoping the community of Osgood, with some help from
the Department of Natural Resources-Division of Historic Preservation
and Archaeology, will be able to provide.
Last year the DNR began its Historic Theatre Initiative to save and
protect as many old theatres as possible. A committee, which includes
film historians, theatre owners like Damm, preservationists and others,
People care, and they want something done with the theatres,
said DNR-DHPA special projects coordinator Jeannie Regan-Dinius.
During the past several months, Dinius and colleagues have traveled
to several theatres around the state to speak with owners and operators
and to get a better understanding of how they can help. The group
made a visit to the Damm Theatre on Dec. 8. Accompanying Dinius on
her visit to Osgood were Amy Walker of the DNR-DHPA, Jay Reynolds
of New York, LLC, Ken Schuette of the Wabash Valley Trust, and Candy
Hudziak, one of the IUPUI graduate students who are assisting the
DNR with the initiative by preparing case studies.
by Ruth Wright
Damm Theatre in Osgood, Ind.
Of the approximately 550 theatres that once existed in Indiana, 230
still stand, according to Dinius. Their uses vary, from traditional
movie venues to completely renovated, commercial properties. Some
theatres, like the Damm, are still standing but have been closed for
more than a decade and have fallen into disrepair from lack of maintenance.
Reynolds and Schuette have partnered with their perspective groups
to save the Lafayette Theatre. Built in Lafayette, Ind., in 1937,
the theatre has been vacant for the past 14 years. The Wabash Valley
Trust, a non-profit preservationist group, and New York, LLC, a for-profit
company, jointly purchased the property on Dec. 24, 2002. We
didnt want to see it turned into a parking lot, said Reynolds,
one of the nine individuals that make up New York, LLC and whose office
is located near the downtown theatre.
The two groups have completed about 95 percent of the fund raising
needed to bring the project to fruition. Funding sources included
three local grants, other grants, private donations and borrowed funds.
by Ruth Wright
seats inside the Damm Theatre.
"(Theatre initiatives) seem to have their own momentum, and
its picking up steam, said Reynolds. Already, the groups
have signed a lease agreement with a company to open a dinner theatre
in the Lafayette when renovation is complete, hopefully by next August,
The Damms have also formed a group to save their theatre, a non-profit
called the Damm Theatre Development Group. They hope, according to
Damm, to see the theatre become a thriving entertainment and cultural
center that would benefit the entire community. But before that can
happen, Damm would like to find out just how feasible the project
would be and how valuable it would be to the community.
Damm took those questions to the DNR-DHPAs roundtable discussion
held Dec. 11 in Danville, Ind. Approximately 72 individuals attended
the meeting, where DNR officials listened to what historic theatre
owners and operators had to say about their needs. Dinius said many
questions were posed, some of which the DNR hopes to see answered
at its Historic Theatres Initiative Conference, scheduled for March
12 in Indianapolis. The DNR plans to bring to the conference professional
groups to answer questions that were posed at the roundtable meeting.
The conference is open to the public and registration forms
are available from the DNR. For information call (317) 232-1646.