Illusionist Raises Awareness of Historic Theater

Lynchburg, VA - World-Famous illusionist, and Lynchburg Native, Kevin Spencer, performed Saturday night at EC Glass High School, to raise awareness of the historic Academy of Music Theater in Lynchburg.

Spencer along with his wife, have performed all around the world for millions of people. They were named Performing Arts Entertainers of the Year for six consecutive years. His trip to his hometown marks the first time in 10 years he has performed back here.

He says the theater is something that is near and dear to his heart

"The most important part of that for me is because of the history of what that building is, what it means to the city, it is such a vital part of the city and the early 1900's," said Spencer.

The Historic Downtown Theatre has been through a lot over the years. The Academy of Fine Arts says they're anxious to re-open it, but there is still a long way to go until the building is up to code. They still need to add bathrooms, more seating, and a larger entry way. However an event like Spencer's could really breathe new life into the project.

In 1905 The Academy of Music Theater became the pride of Lynchburg.

"Our building had so many famous touring acts throughout the early 1900's," said Tanya Fischoff, Director of Marketing for The Academy of Fine Arts.

Becoming Lynchburg's first fully electrified building, the theater was a must stop for the touring groups of its day.

When a fire tore through the building in 1911, the iconic hot spot was brought back from the ashes and reopened just a year later.

That's until 1959, when the doors were closed for good, and 5 decades later, Lynchburg's hidden gem still waits to hear music echo through her halls once again.

"The acoustics are perfect already, and that's a fantastic thing, and a lot of the steel beams and steel work has been done to make sure the building doesn't fall apart." said Fischoff

So with great acoustics and a strong structure what is left to be done aside from a face lift, lighting, and air conditioning?

"Putting in bathrooms," said Fischoff.

Fischoff says in 1911 theaters like the Academy of Music one didn't have bathrooms. In order to keep its historic meaning, they can't add them. However, in order to meet modern day building codes, the facility must have bathrooms.

"It's a whole complex that we need to build to be up to modern code, but also take the building back to its 1911 version," said Fischoff.

The City of Lynchburg donated the 6th street ally to The Academy of Fine Arts just for this reason. Eventually, The Academy will close the old ally, and build a connector building, attaching the bathroom-less 1911 style theater, to their modern day exhibit space, complete with bathrooms.

"It really is going to give a great push to the arts and theatre in Lynchburg, Virginia," said Fischoff"

Fischoff says fundraising for the project is strong, but would only say to 'stay tuned, further announcements are coming' when asked about an estimated time frame for when construction may begin on the connector building.