The historic Paramount Theatre in downtown Youngstown, Ohio is set to be demolished in May in a project that will take four months to complete.
Known as the Liberty Theatre, the Federal Plaza structure was designed by Detroit architect C. Howard Crane. It featured an exterior motif of late Neo-classical, Ecole des Beaux Arts styling with terra cotta ornamentation and an interior with ornate plaster detailing, and could seat 1,700 inside. The vaudeville house opened on February 11, 1918 and played “A Modern Musketeer.”
In 1929, the theater was purchased by Paramount Pictures Corporation and was renamed the Paramount Theatre. A modernization project undertaken not long after added a sound system for talkies, with an Art Deco motif applied to the mezzanine. It was remodeled once more in 1950 during the boom times of the city – when ten movie theaters operated in and around downtown.
Mirroring the decline in Youngstown’s fortunes, the Paramount closed in 1976. Several plans were made to renovate the facility into other uses, including a theater and musical venue, restaurant, and outdoor amphitheater. But a lack of funding derailed all of the grand visions for the structure.
In November 2012, the city moved forward with demolition plans for the Paramount, and on March 28, 2013, the board of control signed a $721,000 contract with Baumann Enterprises of Cleveland for the razing. Out of the seven proposals, it was the lowest and considerably lower than the city’s $1.1 million estimate. The city had received an $803,490 Clean Ohio grant from the state in July 2011 towards the project.
The front terra cotta facade was initially set to be preserved, but a high price tag of $1.3 million and $1.6 million and no guarantee of the facade surviving the tear down led that proposal to be abandoned.
Upon the razing of the Paramount, the lot will be regraded and turned into a surface parking lot for City Hall.
In related news, the 251-page, “Youngstown Plan” study that was published in 2012 noted that of all of the city owned parking lots are run by a third party and operate at a loss.