Theater Motel

Theater Motel
The 1940s-era Theater Motel, at 7592 U.S. Route 20 east of Westfield, New York, was originally a drive-in theater. Checking the box on all roadside amenities, there’s also a small diner attached. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the theater in the late 1990s.

EIU Memories: Will Rogers Theatre

Built in 1938 at a cost of $90,000 in Art Deco style, the Will Rogers Theatre has been a fixture of downtown Charleston, Illinois for generations. It was named after William ‘Will’ Rogers, a famous Cherokee actor, humorist, and newspaper columnist of the Progressive Era who died in a plane crash in 1935. When I was an undergrad at Eastern Illinois University, my Friday night routine was to walk down to the Will Rogers and watch whatever movie had been released that week.

During the 1980s, Kerasotes Theaters divided the 1,100-seat auditorium and began showing movies on two separate screens. The Will Rogers was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, and designated a Landmark Property by the City of Charleston in 2011.

When I entered EIU as a freshman in the fall of 2000, Kerasotes still owned Will Rogers Theatre. They showed two films per week on two screens, one at 7:00pm and the other at 7:15. Movie tickets were only $2, and popcorn was cheap too. My first visit was to see The Replacements with a sorority girl named Valerie who my roommate introduced me to (for more on him, read my article on Carman Hall).

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Woodbourne Theater

Woodbourne Theater
Woodbourne is a small hamlet in Sullivan County, New York, in the Catskill Mountains along the Neversink River. Designed by local architect Abraham H. Okun and Built in 1938, this Art Deco theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. Also known as the Center Theatre or Peace Palace, it closed in the 1980s and has sat abandoned ever since.

Abandoned Catskill Drive-In

Mountain Drive-In, off NY State Highway 52, east of Liberty, New York, silently sits in ruins like a scene from the Fallout series. A faded sign still advertises “Mountain Fest ’97”, so I assume that was when it closed. According to Cinema Treasures, it opened in 1951 and once had three screens. More info and pictures from 2007 here.

From the 1920s to the 1970s, New York City Jews flocked to Catskill resorts in the summer months to escape the stifling heat of the city. There were once over 500 resorts and hotels in the area, known as the “Borscht Belt“. Many famous comedians and entertainers got their start here. With increasing religious tolerance and the advent of widespread commercial airliners, many families chose to vacation elsewhere and dozens of these establishments now lay abandoned.

Millikin University’s Rail Girl and Other Tales

Like many colleges, Decatur’s Millikin University is home to a bevvy of campus legends, some of which are based on historic tragedies.

Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois began its career with great fanfare. Named after the man who bankrolled the school, James Millikin, it opened in 1903 and was dedicated by Teddy Roosevelt. Classes begin on September 15 of that year. Its numerous ghost stories have their origins early in its history.

One story, involving the light of a long-deceased railroad crossing watchman named Tommy, has been told on campus since the 1930s. The old gymnasium, now used primarily as a storage area, is the scene of echoes from days gone by. According to Troy Taylor, students have heard the sounds of sports being played while alone in the abandoned gym.

Many students believe the ghost of a woman named Bernice Richardson haunts Ashton Hall, Millikin University’s oldest all-female dorm. Richardson killed herself by drinking carbonic acid in her bedroom on February 1, 1927.

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