CLIFTON FORGE — The Historic Masonic Theatre received the best birthday present this month by being featured in Virginia Living magazine’s Best of Virginia 2020 July issue, in the Historic Theatre category for the Shenandoah region.
The Historic Masonic Theatre is 115 years old this month.
Virginia Living’s ninth annual Best of Virginia issue hit newsstands on July 17.
The statewide guide to all that is “best” in Virginia dining, shopping, and doing —Best of Virginia 2020 lists the more than 1,500 winners from the magazine’s Readers’ Survey, conducted in January.
More than 54,000 people voted in 103 categories, covering the best in Living and Recreation, Food and Drink, Shopping, and Services across the state.
The “Best of” issue includes the following areas of Virginia: Central, Eastern, Northern, Shenandoah and Southwest.
Virginia Living celebrates all things Virginia — from its people and places, to its deep history and traditions. Virginia Living informed the theatre of its honor when the COVID-19 situation was just hitting the state of Virginia, and following the state mandate, the theatre closed its doors on March 18.
The Historic Masonic Theatre has remained closed, just as many other businesses and entertainment venues have remained closed through the pandemic.
Throughout the four months of going dark, a reduced staff and volunteers have rescheduled events, contacted patrons, exchanged tickets and performed much needed maintenance and repairs. Guidelines for safely reopening are being written and implemented.
In 2009, the Masonic Theatre Preservation Foundation was formed under the leadership of local residents John Hillert and Meade Snyder, with the sole purpose of restoring the historic landmark to its original condition.
The theatre was built in 1905 as a Masonic Lodge and Opera House by local Masonic Lodge 166. In the years between 1905 and 2009, many owners had managed the theatre and it was in need of a complete restoration.
Thanks to a six-year fundraising effort led by the Masonic Theatre Preservation Foundation and supported by the community, grants from The Alleghany Foundation, organizations, businesses, Historic Tax Credits and New Market Tax Credits, the $6.9 million renovation began in April 2015, and the Historic Masonic Theatre reopened on July 1, 2016.
“Receiving this distinction from Virginia Living magazine is a shot in the arm for our staff and Board of Directors.” said Gayle Hillert, president of the Masonic Theatre Preservation Foundation. “This honor is also a reflection of the support of our community. In the four years that the theatre has been operating since its reopening, it has made a significant contribution to the Alleghany Highlands.
“We are very respectful of our theatre’s storied past and we are eager to resume the economic, educational and social impact we have made to the community through the operation of our beautiful theatre,” Hillert added.
For more information on The Historic Masonic Theatre and programs at the Masonic Amphitheatre, please visit www.historicmasonictheatre.com.
Virginia Living’s Best of Virginia 2020 July issue features the Historic Masonic Theatre in Clifton Forge. The theatre was featured in the Historic Theatre category for the Shenandoah region. The magazine hit newsstands on July 17. (Photo Courtesy Virginia Living Magazine)