Damm Theater revived

Reynolds Foundation provides money
to restore historic theater

Kiwanis are selling the
old theater seats as a fundraiser

By Konnie McCollum
Contributing Writer

OSGOOD, Ind. (January 2007) – Indiana has its share of unusual landmarks. Among them is the historic Damm Theater in Osgood, Ind. It is reportedly one of the most photographed public buildings in the state, and most town folk believe that might have something to do with the theater’s name.

Damm Theater

Photo by Don Ward

The Damm Theater was
a hot spot in Osgood in
its day. It will get a
complete makeover
and be used again.

The Damm Theater, located on Buckeye Street in downtown Osgood, has been purchased by the Reynolds Foundation. The nonprofit organization has planned a major renovation project, expected to begin by late January, on the historic theater.
Originally opened as the Columbia Theatre by Gottlieb and Emma Herman and Richard Beer, the theater was purchased by Louis Damm and opened in 1922 as the Damm Theater.
The theater was the most popular place in town, and with a seating capacity of almost 400, it often housed more than one-third of the town’s 1,700 people when popular movies played there.
It has offered everything from first-run movies and short reels to vaudevillian skits and local amateur acts. It even had a large dance hall on the second floor.
During the silent film days, a piano-console Wurlitzer player organ was installed. That organ was repossessed during the Great Depression.
The theater was run for 39 years by the five children of Louis Damm. In 1953, however, Joe Damm bought the controlling interest, and he and his wife, Viola, continued to run the theater. In 1989, when Viola Damm died, the theater was closed down. It re-opened for awhile, but then closed again.
The Reynolds Foundation bought the Damm Theater and took bids for the major renovation project. Steve Gloyd, executive director of the private foundation, said the construction work will begin in late January and should be completed on an eight-month time frame.
“This is not a historical restoration but a totally modern update,” he said. The building will be given all modern facilities and a total makeover. The upstairs will be turned in a balcony for more seating, which will allow it to be used by the area schools.
Once again, the theater will be able to house live presentations as well as movie offerings. “The overall effect will be great,” said Gloyd. Indianapolis firm Woollen, Molzan & Partners was chosen to do the design work.
In a benevolent move, the Reynolds Foundation gave 300 of the original Damm Theater red velvet covered seats to the Osgood Kiwanis Club to sell as a fundraiser.
Those seats were sold for $25 each at the theater on three consecutive Saturdays in December.
“The Kiwanis Club will use the money to help local children,” Kiwanis member Gloria Borgman said. Although the chairs are unassembled and need of restoration, they are apparently selling quite well. “They make great gifts,” she said.
Borgman said the Kiwanis gave the residents of Osgood the first opportunity to buy the historic chairs, and many are buying several for their game or family rooms. “The majority of people buying the chairs are doing so because of their fond memories of the Damm Theater,” she said.

Osgood, Ind.

Photo by Don Ward

The Damm Theater is located
in the heart of downtown Osgood, Ind.

Several of the nieces and nephews of the Damm family have even come to town and purchased some of the seats, and there are antique dealers from around the area ready to scoop up any of the remaining chairs.
The Reynolds Foundation has also been responsible for many of the updates to the town of Osgood at large. The foundation was established in 1999 after long time residents Gilmore and Golda Reynolds left their fortune to the town.
After their deaths, Osgood residents were shocked to learn the childless couple, who lived very modestly, left $23 million to the small little town. The money was entrusted to the private Reynolds Foundation, which is responsible for distributing grants worth about $1 million a year to local nonprofit organizations.
Gloyd said there are specific stipulations about how the money is to be spent. Those regulations help foundation officials decide which projects to finance. Most of the money is awarded as matching grants, start-up funds or payment series.
Recently, the Reynolds Foundation helped finance a water-loop project throughout Osgood. The water lines through the town apparently dead-ended at State Road 350. Gloyd said that can create water pressure and other problems for some people, particularly those that live towards the end of the line. Now, thanks in part to a $150,000 grant, the water lines will loop and come back down Fairground Road.
The Reynolds Foundation has also provided $700,000 for a $1 million “Safe Routes to School,” sidewalk project. Indiana state grants and riverboat money will make up the remaining funds.
In that project, sidewalks will be improved or added to link downtown Osgood to the local high school.
Gloyd said there are many smaller projects the Reynolds Foundation is also helping to fund. Several of those involve the area’s school system.

Back to January 2007 Articles.



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