Embassy Theatre Foundation celebrates 40 years and 19 presidents
In honor of Presidents Day, the Embassy Theatre celebrates 40 years as a non-profit organization characterized by a strong tradition of foundation presidents.
Built in 1928 as a movie and vaudeville palace and named the Emboyd Theatre, the stage hosted the biggest and brightest stars and motion pictures for nearly five decades as a commercial property in downtown Fort Wayne. The name changed to the Embassy Theatre in 1952, and continued to be a popular attraction. By 1972, the Embassy was in a state of disrepair and its current owner, Cinecom Corporation, declared bankruptcy. Faced with the wrecking ball, a handful of community leaders and volunteers, led by Robert Goldstine, banded together to form the Embassy Theatre Foundation, giving rise to the non-profit organization that owns and manages the cultural gem today.
During the past 40 years, the Embassy Theatre Foundation benefited from the guidance and leadership of 19 presidents. We salute them and their accomplishments. Embassy Theatre board presidents and accomplishments during each decade:
Robert Nickerson, 1972-73; Robert Goldstine, 1974-79
- Late 1972—Embassy Theatre Foundation incorporated.
- 1974—Foundation begins to present shows in theater.
- 1974—Embassy Theatre Foundation signs agreement to purchase building.
- June 1975—Embassy Theatre Foundation purchases building for $250,000.
- 1976—Broadway at the Embassy begins presenting shows. First show is Irene.
- 1978—Embassy’s 50th anniversary show is headlined by Milton Berle.
Philip Bonahoom, 1979-82; Alex Azar, 1982-83; David Silletto, 1983-85; Charles Rayburn, 1985-88; Stephen Smith, 1988-90
- November 1985—first Festival of Trees takes place, an idea introduced by future board president Barbara Wigham.
- Mid-1980s—Grand Wayne extension built with a bridge, elevator and handicap-accessible restrooms.
- 1988—Grande Page Pipe Organ undergoes complete console renovation.
- 1988—Major stage lighting installed.
- Late 1980s—Extensive repairs made to exterior terra cotta.
Ron Prater, 1990-92; David Willman, 1992-93; Barbara Wigham, 1993-94; Larry Edris, 1994-96; Tom Skiba, 1996-98; Steve Gillig, 1998-2000
- Early 1990s—$5 million capital renovation campaign.
- 1991—Grand drape installed on stage.
- 1992—Dressing rooms renovated.
- 1995—Major renovation enlarges theater stage and orchestra pit and restores hotel lobby and mezzanine.
Steve Hazelrigg, 2000-01; Paula Hughes, 2001-04; Gilmore Haynie Jr., 2004-06; Jan Wilhelm, 2006-08; Tom Borne 2008-10
- 2003—Walkway of Fame sidewalk installation marks Embassy Theatre’s 75th anniversary.
- 2004—Hoosier Room renovated.
- 2005—State-of-the-art marquee and vertical blade sign installed.
- 2005-06—Lower lounge restroom renovated.
- Dec. 2006—State-of-the-art stage lighting system installed.
- Feb. 2007—Down the Line, a signature concert fundraiser, begins.
- 2007-09—Embassy’s third floor is renovated as a pedestrian walkway connecting two hotels. Robert Goldstine bridge is constructed.
- 2008-09—Extensive heating and air conditioning upgrades are made.
Jill Perillo, 2010-12
- A donation from Tom and Penny Mathiesen funds drapery installation in theatre lobby
- Embassy ranked in Worldwide Top 50 Theatre Venues by Pollstar
- Embassy Theatre begins groundwork for capital campaign to renovate floors four through seven of the Indiana Hotel.
The 2011 Embassy Festival of Trees welcomed more than 15,800 patrons and delighted countless children. Please see below for the holiday memories created at the Embassy this past holiday season. All photos by 4ever Photography & Design, Cory & Erica Dold.