After nearly 40 years of being forlorn, a restored Seminole Theatre in Homestead reopened its doors on Wednesday with a 1920s-style street fair featuring performances by fire dancers, stilt walkers and hula hoop artists.
The iconic structure, originally built in 1921, was rebuilt after a fire in 1940 with an Art Deco facade. It closed its doors in 1979 due to financial trouble and suffered a near total loss from Hurricane Andrew in 1992. In 1993, the owners donated the dilapidated structure to the city and historic preservationists have been working since to bring it back.
In its newest form, it will serve as a cultural arts center. The first event at the theater, which is located at 18 N. Krome Ave., is slated for Dec. 12.
This restoration was made possibly by a bond referendum in 2014, in which 64 percent of Homestead voters voted in favor of a $5 million bond to renovate the historic theater as a cultural center. Soon after, an additional $550,000 was awarded in form of two state grants.
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The funding allowed for the complete restoration of the space, making it once again a cultural hub for Homestead.
“The renovation of the Seminole Theatre as a cultural arts center is part of an overall effort to bring new life to Downtown Homestead with a series of civic and community ventures,” said city spokeswoman Begoñe Cazalis. “These include the new City Hall, which is near completion, the expansion of Losner Park as a civic plaza for community events, and the construction of a new Police Station in the heart of Downtown.”
During Wednesday’s grand opening, more than 1,000 members of the community flooded the lobby of the landmark. Attendees had the chance to see the stage fully lit, sit in the plush red chairs and hear about the structure’s history.
Confetti rained from the rooftops as attendees swayed glow sticks in the air as the marquee was being lit.
Bruce Chambers, the grandson of the theater’s original founder James Washington English, said the restored theater is “right in line” with his grandfather’s vision.
“I went to movies here when I was a kid,” Chambers, 68, said. “Seeing it end up a centerpiece for the Homestead historic resurrected area is very nice. I’m very proud. I believe it will bring life back to this place. It’s going to do some great renderings for the area.”