NEW ORLEANS — The West Carroll Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the Tulane School of Architecture are pleased to announce the Fiske Theatre in Oak Grove, La. has been awarded the Tulane School of Architecture Deans Fund for Excellence Grant to be used for historical research of small mid-century theatres in Louisiana.
“This is tremendous news for our theatre,” Adam Holland, President of Holland Entertainment who operates the Fiske Theatre for the West Carroll Chamber said. “Since we have been involved with the theatre it has been our goal to restore her reputation as one of the most respected theatres in the region. By being awarded this grant to be case study for an institution as prestigious as Tulane, it shows we are being noticed across the state.”
Tulane’s project will include documentation and historical research of the Ultra-Moderne Art-Deco architecture of the late B.W. Stevens who designed the Fiske Theatre as well as the Joy on Canal Street in New Orleans. This research will include reproducing the lost blueprints of the theatre as well as preparing documentation to assist in the submission for future listing on the National Register of Historic Places when the theatre becomes eligible in coming years.
“This project, just like most of our other projects came about via accident.” W.C. Chamber President H. Doug Ainsworth said. “I had Adam doing research through the Southeastern Architecture Archives, which are housed at Tulane, in hopes of finding a copy of our blueprints to begin the process of planning for future renovations to the lobby for handicapped restrooms and an expanded concession area. Doing this he stumbled across Andrew Liles. After hearing our story and seeing pictures of the Fiske he was so impressed with what we as the chamber along with the people of Northeast Louisiana and the Holland Family have accomplished, he became excited about our theatre and wanted to get involved by applying for this grant which will allow for his students to study our theatre.”
Liles is a practicing architect, operating his own firm in New Orleans, and is Adjunct Faculty at Tulane School of Architecture.
Liles’s oversight of the project will be joined by the director of the School of Architecture’s Master of Preservation Studies program, Professor John H. Stubbs, a native of Monroe who has spent most of his career in international architectural conservation. Stubbs has also served as advisor to the State’s current initiative to nominate Poverty Point State Historic Site in Epps, La. to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The student team will consist of a Master of Architecture candidate and two Master of Historic Preservation candidates, all of whom will measure the existing building, complete a stylistic analysis, compile historical documents, contextualize the significance of the Fiske in relation to other regional theatres and produce a publication-ready document.
“We are thrilled to be able to study and participate in the rebirth of such a great piece of American architecture,” Andrew Liles, Tulane School of Architecture said. “The Fiske, with its cutting edge design of its time, is a true example of mid-century Streamline Moderne Architecture, and we feel this study will be very beneficial to our students who will be participating in this effort.”
Through engagement with the Fiske Theatre and its Oak Grove community this Dean’s Fund project will highlight the value of small mid-century theatres in Louisiana as a case study that can be used as a tool to encourage similar preservation efforts throughout the region. In this way, it is an opportunity for Tulane School of Architecture to serve the states northern parishes beyond Oak Grove as The Cave in Delhi and Joy in Rayville are two candidates for restoration or adaptive reuse that could benefit from a publication of the means and methods of the revitalized Fiske Theatre.
“Once again enough cannot be said about the chambers efforts to preserve this part of West Carroll’s history,” Honorary Fiske Theatre Chairman Ronald C. Fiske said. “Tulane choosing Dad’s theatre to study continues his visionary legacy of excellence, and on behalf of our family we thank Tulane and the Chamber for helping insure his investments continue to touch the lives of the people of Northeast Louisiana long after he has been gone.”
The Fiske Theatre is owned by the West Carroll Chamber of Commerce and operated by Holland Entertainment LLC of Oak Grove. Funds from this project in no way will be used for general operation of the theatre. For more information on the Tulane School of Architecture visit them at architecture.tulane.edu or on the Fiske Theatre visit fisketheatre.com or westcarrollchamber.com.