Smoot plans benefit for restorations

PARKERSBURG – The Smoot Theatre will hold a fundraiser for several restoration projects at the 87-year-old downtown landmark.

The Rags to Riches Benefit Party will be held from 8-10:30 p.m. June 21 at the theater on Fifth Street where the Smoot House Band will perform music of the era when the theater was constructed. The evening will include stations around the theater where patrons will learn about its history, said Felice Jorgeson, director of the Smoot Theatre.

“We’ll do a little spiel on the history and the restoration,” she said.

Also, participants will partake in beverages and hors d’oeuvres and see parts of the theater where few have gone before, she said.

“Very few people have ever seen the dressing rooms,” Jorgeson said.

Among the stations will be a table on the mezzanine where drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be available, Jorgeson said. A volunteer will discuss the history of that particular section of the theater, she said.

On an upper floor will be a station near an area damaged in the storms last year, she said. The damage, undiscovered until afterward, is a project of the restoration effort, too, Jorgeson said.

Stations also will be on the stage and other areas, she said. More intimate entertainment will be present throughout the theater, she said.

Betty Smoot Dils and Smoot Fahlgren, children of the original builders of the theater, will be present for the event, Jorgeson said. The third descendant, Joan Smoot Hushion, will be away.

Dils and Hushion are sisters and Fahlgren is their cousin.

The theater was constructed and owned by the Smoot Amusement Co., which owned several other theaters in Parkersburg, Jorgeson said. The company owners were President Charles Smoot, Vice President Fayette Smoot and Secretary Julia Smoot Fahlgren.

Fayette is the father of Dils and Hushion. Fahlgren is the son of Julia. All of Charles’ descendants have passed away, Jorgeson said.

The Smoot was originally a vaudeville house and was purchased by Warner Bros. in 1930.

A highlight of the evening will be the performance by the Smoot House Band, which will play selections by composers famous in the 1920s and 1930s, Jorgeson said. They include George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern and George M. Cohan.

“These are the people who everybody knows,” she said.

Tickets are $50 a person. Cocktail dress is suggested.

Funds raised will be used toward a matching grant for the projects through the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, Jorgeson said.

She is preparing an application and believes the projects will cost about $250,000.

Projects in the plans include the interior repainting, insulation of the steam pipes and insulation in the attic, repainting the exterior of Wakley Hall adjacent to the theater, modernization of the heating systems and the replacement of a third of the heating and cooling system in Wakley Hall.

Reservations can be made by calling 304-422-7529.