Preservation at Work: Medford’s Holly Theatre is Coming Back!
By George Kramer
Medford’s Holly Theatre opened in August 1930. A large theatre, its 1,200 seats were arrayed in a single continuous rake, with great views of the huge screen, all inside a Spanish “Palazzo,” with false windows and balconies looking over the assembled crowd.
For five decades the Holly was one of downtown Medford’s main attractions, but by 1986 the theatre couldn’t compete with smaller multiplexes and was closed. Later owners pursued crazy schemes without success and the building fell into disrepair. In 2002 roof damage caused a truss to crack and the Holly lost occupancy. The fate of the building looked bleak.
Enter the JPR Foundation, operators of Jefferson Public Radio and owners of the restored Cascade Theatre, in Redding, California. JPR announced plans to restore the Holly as an entertainment venue, with a mix of live performance, film, and other events to support the revitalization of downtown. JPR decided to start with the facade, aided by a matching grant from the Medford Urban Renewal Agency, to demonstrate that the Holly was coming back to life.
On April 21, 2012, the “Grand Relighting” ceremony was held to celebrate the completion of the facade work. Original wood windows were restored, the brick cleaned, cornice details recaptured and an entirely new foyer, with fir doors, bronze handles, lighting, poster cases and a new tile floor were all unveiled to a thrilled audience. But the highlight of the evening was the recreation of the huge 33-foot tall neon pylon, the largest neon sign in southern Oregon, and the projecting neon marquee. Both are detailed replicas of the signs from the original 1930 design. When the lights went on, 1,000 people cheered. The mayor, and most of the City Council, were in attendance, all in 1930s-period garb. Now, on to the interior!
For more information and more photos, check out www.hollytheatre.org.
George Kramer of Kramer & Company in Ashland, Oregon served as the restoration consultant for both the Holly and the Cascade theatres. He is the former chair of the Oregon Heritage Commission and maintains The PreserveOregon Blog.