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Keith-Albee gets new roof

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By JAMES E. CASTO

HUNTINGTON — The Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center is getting a new roof. Actually, the historic theater is getting more than one roof. Because different sections of the theater building vary in height, one single roof won't cover all of them. Instead, separate roofs must be done for each section.

PAR Roofing of Huntington is doing the work under a $532,300 contract with the nonprofit foundation that now oversees the theater.

The roof has been a major concern for the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center Foundation since it took over the 85-year-old theater in 2006. It was able to replace the leaking roof above the stage but was forced to put blue tarps in place to cover other leaky roof sections.

"Any time you have a building as old as the Keith, you have a number of holes and leaks that you have to patch," said state Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, co-president of the foundation. "But we're at the point where we can't patch anymore."

Plymale said it's expected that the roof replacement work will be completed by mid-June. The foundation can then turn its attention to a long list of additional renovations on the inside of the theater.

The roof replacement is being financed with a combination of grants, including $100,000 each from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the West Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate, additional grant funds from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, a $25,000 contribution from the city of Huntington and private donations.

Huntington attorney David Tyson, the foundation's other co-president, termed the roof work "a significant step in the restoration of the theater" and praised Tomblin, House Speaker Rick Thompson and Senate President Jeff Kessler for the financial assistance they provided the project.

Designated a "contributing property" to Huntington's Downtown Historic District, the Keith-Albee opened in 1928. 

Built by Huntington brothers A.B. and S.J. Hyman, the theater took its name from the then-popular Keith-Albee vaudeville circuit. The handiwork of famed theater architect Thomas W. Lamb, its lavish design featured ornate plasterwork and a sky blue ceiling with clouds and twinkling stars. 

Newspaper accounts of the theater's opening described it as a "$2 million temple of amusement."

The Hyman family closed the Keith as a movie theater in 2006 and donated it to the Marshall University Foundation, which is turn passed it on to the newly formed Keith-Albee foundation.