COLUMBUS, Ind. – A 130-year-old piece of Indiana history could soon be a thing of the past. It's been years since the Crump Theatre was open for business, but community members in Columbus hope the seats might be filled once again.
"This room has old film reels in it, all kinds of old stuff,” said lifelong Columbus resident Hutch Schumaker as he stepped into a small closet on the balcony level of the Crump Theatre. For a building well over a century old, the theatre looks just about how you’d expect it.
"While this looks really horrific, it’s really just plastic stuff peeling and paint,” Schumaker said as he pointed to the ceiling visibly chipping away.
The shuttered theatre has become a bit of second home for Schumaker.
"Oh gosh," he said while walking up the aisle "It has felt like it.”
He may not have a history degree, but Schumaker can tell you everything about this place, especially the stories from his childhood.
"I'm a real old guy in the community," laughed Schumaker. "So I spent at least one day or evening every weekend here the whole time I was growing up... from weekend cartoon festivals that lasted all morning to scary movie festivals on Friday night.”
With a stage that’s featured the likes of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and musician John Mellencamp, this piece of Columbus history has stood the test of time. But time is slowly taking over.
"It either needs to move forward, or it needs to go away,” Schumaker said.
For years he’s been the one holding on to the keys to his childhood hangout, waiting for the day it might return to its former glory. However, that dream is still far out.
The Columbus Capital Foundation, which Schumaker chairs, now owns the property. Years ago, the theatre received funding to fix the roof, electric wiring and boiler, but that’s about all they could do.
“It kind of made a resurgence, but then to really restore it to where it needs to be required an amount of money that wasn’t available locally,” said Schumaker. "There wasn’t adequate funding to restore the thing to its former glory.”
"We would love to see the Crump have a new life of something, and I think that's the most important thing,” said Tracy Souza, President & CEO of the Heritage Fund – The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County.
In a town that prides itself on modern architecture, Souza said there's also pride in preserving its past.
"It's meaning is a lot deeper than architecture and design in the community," Souza said. "It was a gathering place, it was a place for people to be, it was a place for entertainment and that’s the passion for bringing it back.”
That passion has kept the building standing, but it hasn't pushed it forward. While Schumaker says the building is structurally sound, a full restoration is estimated to cost at least $7 million.
"Unless something happens, unless there is a plan developed around this, there is the potential for it being demolished," Schumaker said.
Recently, the Crump Theatre made a list of the 10 most endangered landmarks in Indiana. While it's sad to see the Crump get to this point, Schumaker is thankful for the attention it brings.
"I think it’s great to be added to that list because it brings attention. You’re here because we’re on that list," he said while pointing to our cameras.
"The more attention we can attract to the plight of the future of this facility, I think the better off, the more opportunities there are for it being saved.”
While there's no plan on where the funding might come from, Schumaker will keep waiting, keys in hand, until it does.
"There's a business plan developed. All we need are the funds to help restore this thing so it can be used by the community,” he said.
Since the first top 10 list was created in 1991, 85 structures on the list have been either restored, or considered safe.