The abandoned Grand Theater, constructed in 1937 in the Art Deco architectural style, is located in Ronceverte, West Virginia. 1 The venue replaced an earlier circa 1900 iteration. The new three-story building was designed by John Norman, Sr., the second registered black architect and seventh registered architect for the state. 6
The Grand housed 158 seats in a single theatre 4 and WRON, the town’s first radio station. 1 2 The exterior was elaborate, with a façade faced with white blazed brick 1 and 210 square-feet of black vitrolite, an opaque pigmented glass, 4 with a neon marquee that was considered the largest in the state. The footprint of the building measured 50-feet by 45-feet and rose 35-feet in height. 5
The interior comprised of composition blocks on the walls in a four-tone effect to give the appearance of old weathered stone. 5 The ceiling was finished in gold stippled plastic. In all, 1,000 pounds of decorative plaster and 10,000 pounds of traditional plaster was used.
The projection equipment used was from Super-Simpllex with Super-Cinephor lenses, displaying on a 10.7-foot by a 14.7-foot screen and heard through the Western Electric Mirrorphonic Sound System. 5 Each seat, manufactured by the Peabody Seating Company of North Manchester, Indiana, was equipped with the Western Electric “Theaterophone” seat phone system, the first in the state.
J.C. (Jim) Shanklin operated the theatre. 3 Shanklin had operated the Ronceverte theatre since 1900 and also managed facilities in Charleston and Gauley Bridge.
After Shaklin passed away, the Watts and then Darrell Williams owned the building. 4 Williams had planned to donate the building to the city but died before it could be finalised. The structure was instead abandoned.
The Ronceverte Development Corporation intends to purchase the shell of the theatre with the intent to restore the building for public use, and for use as a cinema arts classroom for the community college. 2 The upper floor would house a recording studio.