News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 16, 2011

Historical preservation group buys downtown building

Indiana Landmarks to move in next to Indiana Theatre, which may also change hands

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A nonprofit group that works to preserve Indiana’s past has purchased a building in downtown Terre Haute to serve as a permanent office space.

Indiana Landmarks has purchased an approximately 2,207-square foot building at 669 Ohio St., along the west side of the Indiana Theatre.

In a related event, the theater could soon change hands as two Terre Haute men are seeking to purchase the former vaudeville stage converted to a movie theater. A movie screen can be raised to allow performances on the stage.

Indiana Landmarks paid $130,000 for the single-story building on Ohio Street, originally constructed in 1941. The sale was closed Friday.

“It will be our western regional office,” said Tina Conner, executive vice president of Indiana Landmarks.

“We have nine regional offices around the state, and we do not own buildings in all of the regions, but that is our goal,” Conner said. “We think having a permanent presence in an area is important and our experience has shown that to be the case. It makes us more successful in saving [historic] buildings.”

The Terre Haute site will be the fifth of nine regional offices that will have a permanent, not rented, space, Conner said.

The art deco building was constructed on a parcel that the original owner of the Indiana Theatre, built in 1922, was not able to acquire, said Tommy Klechner, director of the western regional office of Indiana Landmarks.

“It was built as the Terre Haute Mutual Savings Association,” Klechner said. “It was designed by Miller & Yeager, a prominent architectural firm in Terre Haute in the 20th Century. The former federal building, which is now the future Scott College of Business building at Indiana State University, as well as City Hall are some prominent public buildings designed by Miller & Yeager.”

Klechner said he plans to move into the new office space in early March. The regional office will move out of leased space at the Kelly Center at 444 S. 6th St. The new regional office for Indiana Landmarks most recently served as office space for KAE Corp., owner of that building and the Indiana Theatre.

Kathy and Roger Aleshire, who own the theater under KAE Corp., may soon sell the Indiana Theatre. Jeffrey E. McGowan, a volunteer firefighter with Otter Creek Volunteer Fire Department and former dispatcher at the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department, said he and Clint Cottrell, owner of The Data Connection in Terre Haute, are working to purchase the theater.

The two hope to soon form a corporation named Majestic J Enterprises.

“We hope to get this as soon as possible,” McGowan said. “We hope to bring shows back into the building — live entertainment, concerts and comedy shows. We may also open it up for tours after bringing it back to what it looked like in 1922,” McGowan said.

Telephone messages seeking comment were left Tuesday at the office of KAE Corp. and on a cellular phone of Roger Aleshire. Those calls had not been returned by Tuesday evening.

McGowan said initial plans, once the theater is acquired possibly as early as next month, are to paint the interior and repair some plaster. The biggest plans call for restrooms and showers in separate changing rooms for the theater.

In addition, McGowan said plans call for a restaurant, with an alcohol license, to move into space along Seventh Street. The idea is to have a restaurant where people can eat, then simply walk to a show at the theater, McGowan said. It also would be conducive to wedding receptions and events, he said.

One current tenant, Chris and Rich Productions, likely would remain in the theater building, McGowan said.

McGowan said having Indiana Landmarks next to the theater would be a great asset for assistance in any historical improvements.

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.