Historic Venues Get Six-Figure Grants

Historic venues across the U.S. are benefiting from grants of more than $100,000 through the Partners In Preservation: Main Streets campaign.
Photo Courtesy of Alabama Theatre

From 1927 to 1957, the Alabama Theatre had two identical vertical signs — one on 18th Street and one on Third Avenue above the marquee. Both were removed for repairs in the mid-1950s, but the 18th Street sign was never replaced. Thanks to local donations and a $120,000 grant from the National Trust, a new 18th Street sign will be installed next month and illuminated for the first time on New Year’s Eve.
The project is a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which partnered with American Express, National Geographic and Main Street America, and saw 11 venues get $1.5 million in preservation grants. The recipients were chosen by open voting. 
Beneficiaries include Birmingham, Ala.’s Alabama Theatre with $120,000; A new Vintage Neon Sign Park in historic downtown in Casa Grande, Ariz., with $144,000; Carolina Theatre in Greensboro, N.C., with $150,000;
Glenny Brock, outreach coordinator for Birmingham Landmarks, Inc., which runs the Alabama Theatre, said the venue was one of the 25 projects competing for the grant, and the venue received 54,000 votes thanks to a “relentless” marketing campaign that included social media posts, events, and coordination with local media.
“It’s just a tremendous swell of support from our fans and friends all over the world,” Brock said. “For us it was really thrilling to have national recognition for this kind of preservation project.”
The grant for the Alabama Theatre will be used to restore one of the two vertical signs that hung over its entrances. The building was opened in 1927, meaning it will be celebrating its 90th birthday in December. It has been approximately 60 years since one of the iconic signs was removed from the entrance on 18th street, and Brock said owners are hoping to reinstall and re-light the sign by New Year’s Eve.
The 2,150-capacity Alabama Theatre is a destination venue in Birmingham and will host John Prine Nov. 18, three nights of Jason Isbell with James McMurtry Jan. 18-20, and Kelsea Ballerini Feb. 8.
Needtobreathe played a sold out show in the venue Oct. 10, with tickets going for $30.50-$38.50, meaning the show grossed $80,950. Wilco played for 1,950 there Oct. 7, grossing $89,268, and The Head And The Heart played to 1,788 Oct. 4.
The full list of venues receiving grants is available at the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s website. At press time that organization was campaigning to save the historic tax credit, which it says is eliminated in the tax reform bill released by the U.S. House of Representatives Nov. 2.