It’s unfortunate that our city fathers don’t have the same kind of vision that impresario Salvatore Adorno had at the beginning of the last century.
Erik Hesselberg detailed Adorno’s entrepreneurial and show-biz prowess in a Hartford Courant article Monday.
Adorno built the long-gone Grand Theater on Main Street, and later bought the Capitol Theater from the Saraceno brothers, and made them both successful through the vaudeville and silent and sound film eras.
The Capitol Theater is scheduled for demolition. Any wag in City Hall will drag you to a west-facing window and point at the 90-year old building to show you how the walls are bowing, or that there’s a tree growing from its roof.
That tree has been there for as long as I’ve been in town.
I’ve heard from several sources that the building is beyond saving. I’m a born skeptic, especially when many of those sources are the “knock-it-down-and-put-in-parking-spaces” voices we often hear in Middletown planning circles. This week, some of those same voices have also suggested several North End demolitions to create parking spaces there.
In the case of the Capitol Theater, the half-formed plan is a bit more elaborate, but just a bit. The theater will be leveled to make a bus turnaround. Can’t live without one of those downtown.
Demolition is imminent for “safety” reasons. What if we have another winter like last year? What if it’s hit by an asteroid?
May I remind city fathers that the Capitol Theater was not the building on Main Street that collapsed under four feet of snow.
May I also remind city fathers that if it’s unsafe now, it’s been unsafe for at least a decade, or two. Count the rings on that tree on the roof.
Cast your eyes down Main Street at the spot where the beautiful town hall once stood. What’s there? A paved parking lot. That, unfortunately, is often the extent of creative thinking when anyone suggests knocking down an old building in town.
Why demolition now? Because the city has waited so long to use “federal transportation dollars” that the grant is about to expire. So why not a bus turnaround? That’s about the lamest use of transportation dollars one can imagine. Some city leaders agree.
Is that the best our planners can offer up? If, indeed, the theater cannot be revitalized like other cities have revitalized classic downtown theaters, maybe we should be hearing about a new, modern downtown performance space to take its place.
Isn’t that something that’s missing in the street and business scape of restaurant-heavy downtown Middletown — a performance space?
Still, with the federal dollars breathing down the necks of foot-dragging bureaucrats, the bogey-man of collapsing building ringing in our ears and with the promise of fresh pavement, I suspect it’s curtains for Middletown’s last grand-old lady of the theater.