The Columbia Theatre first opened on November 29, 1922, as part of the Columbia Amusement Company’s system of company-owned vaudeville facilities. With imported marble staircases to the balcony, ornate plaster medallions and grillwork, the auditorium seated 1,700 and featured a full stage, orchestra pit, seven dressing rooms, projection booth and theatre office. The Columbia was hailed as the “finest theatre between Pittsburgh and Erie”, providing the ultimate in patron comfort and modern theatrical systems. From its earliest beginnings, the Columbia Theatre was meant to be more than a place where vaudeville was presented; it was to be a palace where entertainment for everyone could be experienced in the opulent surroundings. The Columbia was the grandest of the Mercer County theatres. Now it is the only survivor, outliving the Gable, Nulluna, Capital, Colonial, and Strand. Its rich history and architecture is a legacy of an era of America’s great theatres and movie palaces. No modern building can duplicate this heritage.
The Columbia Theatre was purchased by the Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation June 14, 2002 with the promise of grant funding to follow if the match was achieved for the much needed renovation. Restoration of the seventeen hundred-seat Columbia Theatre has stalled due to the lack of funding. A new roof was installed and the completion of the plastered dome making for a watertight shell approximately 15 years ago.
The Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation coordinated a “Community Work Program” with the Mercer County Correctional Facility and other volunteers, which accomplished the removal of over 100 tons of debris just two years ago. The theater is cleaned and ready for restoration if and when funding becomes available.