What will become of Ashtabula’s Shea’s Theatre?
By DAVE DELUCA | Published by the Star Beacon
June 23, 2013
In its heyday, Shea’s Theatre had thick carpeting and other plush attractions, even water fountains with undersea themes. Sculpted stone comedy and tragedy masks still watch over the entrance of the Main Avenue building. Built in 1949 in an architectural style called Streamline Moderne, Shea’s Theatre is one of the last of its kind. Today Shea’s is the home of the Senior Center, which also owns the building.
For much of the 20th Century movie theaters were the centerpieces of their towns. Today, old movie theaters are coming back as downtown focal points. Shea’s Theatre in Franklin City, Pennsylvania has been restored as a part of downtown revitalization, as have scores of other old cinema palaces in Buffalo, Columbus and towns across the country.
The idea of restoring Shea’s Theatre in Ashtabula is popular. A recent survey conducted by the Ashtabula Downtown Development Association (ADDA) indicates it is. But renovating Shea’s Theatre in Ashtabula won’t necessarily bring it back as a busy grand movie theater.
In that survey, so far some 64 percent thought restoration of Shea’s was very important, while 62 percent thought historical buildings should be preserved. Improving the appearance of Main Avenue older building facades came in at 79 percent and more than half of respondents thought a movie theater doubling as a community centerpiece would be a good idea.