A Brief History of The State Theatre Center for the Arts
The Penn Amusement Company commissioned Thomas W. Lamb, the preeminent theatre architect of the day, to design a “picture palace” for Uniontown. He is best known for his work in the 18th Century Robert Adam’s style of architecture and also for his fine acoustical planning. Construction began in 1921 with art designers from the Ingstrip-Burke Company of Chicago, decorating the interior of the Modern structure in the Adam’s style. The theme was that of “refinement of line and chasteness of ornamentation.” The artist in charge, Michael Tomlin, educated at the School of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia pronounced himself well satisfied “It is better than I hoped it is what I dreamed.”
Hailed as “the largest, finest and most beautiful playhouse in Western Pennsylvania” the State Theatre opened to many accolades on October 30, 1922 showing silent movies and presenting Vaudeville’s finest acts from the B.F. Keith Circuit. The State Symphony Orchestra held forth in the pit with a $40,000.00 Pleubet Master Organ accompanying the silent films to fit the mood. As the Big Band sound emerged, the State hosted some of the country’s greatest musical attractions including Paul Whitman, Glen Gray and the Dorsey Brothers. The popularity of “talkies” signaled the end for in-house musicians and the end of Vaudeville entertainment.
Although the greatest names in Hollywood flickered across the screen, and epics such as Gone With the Wind drew packed houses, the State’s days as a movie palace were numbered. Television’s growing popularity and the movie theatre trend was turning to smaller auditoriums and multiple screens. Sadly, after 50 years, the State Theatre closed in June of 1973.
After a number of years the theatre re-opened as the State Music Hall, featuring country and western legends like Johnny Cash, Slim Whitman, Waylon Jennings and the Statler Brothers. The State Music Hall concept, though popular for a time, did not work out and the theatre closed again.
In 1988 the Greater Uniontown Heritage Consortium purchased the theatre and began presenting a series of nationally touring professional productions ranging from Broadway musicals to Big Bands, symphonies, dance and dramatic performances. In 2007 The Theatre began offering a Classic Film Series, showing the greatest movies ever made on the big screen and returning the theatre to a “picture palace.” The Education Series offers field trip opportunities to school children and is often the first theatre experience local children enjoy. The theatre also hosts professionally promoted concerts, local dance recitals, high school musicals, and civic events.