The other day while out covering a story I was given the opportunity to be introduced to a wonderful piece of history. Granted just like so many other historical things, it looks a little rustic and has the appearance of better days. When you get the past the initial roughness of its appearance and allow yourself to be taken back in time with its architectural charm you are in for an amazing trip.
Up until that moment I had no idea of The Robins Theater in Warren, Ohio. Being a native of Youngstown, I was familiar with the Paramount Theater and am still sad at it’s demise, which is what makes the work The Robins Project is attempting to do at The Robins Theater that much more exciting and important. We should be doing all we can to save pieces of our history and I understand that this can be tough, especially when it comes to financing these preservation projects, but an effort like what is being done in Warren is about as encouraging as it gets for a history lover like myself, a grassroots local effort of saving a piece of history.
The Robins Theater opened its doors in 1923 as a vaudeville and silver screen theater. Daniel Robins who was in charge of theater had previously worked for Abe Warner, of Warner Bros fame, he even married a member of the Warner family, Ann Warner. Clearly entertainment was a part of Robins’ life and he had quite the venue for it in Robins Theater. The theater closed its doors in 1974 and has sat unattended to for 40 years but lucky enough it is salvageable, a fate unfortunately The Paramount Theater was unlucky enough not to meet.
The theater was able to seat 1500, which seems deceptively large when viewing the theater from the outside but it had the remarkable ability of having far more space than one could perceive. I was amazed myself at just how much space there was when walking in a viewing the stage from the mezzanine. Architects it seems in the early 1900’s had the unique ability to truly maximize their space and The Robins Theater was no exception. I would be remiss if I didn’t add while standing on the mezzanine I saw my imagination create a historical film of people taking in shows here 60, 70, and 80 years ago. It was quite the scene, I assure you!
The architecture, while beaten and warn, truly echoed a glorious time of long ago, especially the red velvet seats. With an active imagination like myself and a serious case of nostalgia I couldn’t help continually finding myself time traveling as I walked around the theater. I truly think you’d be hard pressed to walk inside The Robins Theater and not feel yourself being transported to the past and I think that’s why something like this should be preserved the best it can. People deserve to be able to time travel and they shouldn’t need a time traveling DeLorean equipped with a flux capacitor to do it.
Perhaps, the most unique part of the tour was seeing the old film projectors, because for some reason that really helped me to visualize the people inside the theater taking in a movie. I found myself even hearing the sound of the film reel playing on the projector. Combined with all the various pieces of stylistic architectural design there is enough to keep one preoccupied looking around for a long time. And these are the reasons a place like this should be preserved because even though we can easily replicate designs like this there’s something to be said for the memories that this place holds and the stories it can tell. The hope is these stories can be preserved for future people to daydream about upon entering The Robins Theater.
While there is certainly plenty of work to be done and it’s not exactly known what will become of The Robins Theater in renovations. The goal of The Robins Project is to allow the community to plan for how the building will be used so it remains to be seen what it is re-purposed for. Just from the limited time I’ve spent interacting with the organization I am very confident their preservation dreams can become a reality. I hope I am able to be a part of it of this cause and I encourage you to look into the Robins Project and Robins Theater if you find yourself interested in this project as well. They have both a website and a Facebook with more information, so please feel free to read on and learn more about it.