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Capitol Theatre Collection of WWVA and Jamboree USA memorabilia

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OCPL Archives and Special Collections

Capitol Theater Collection

About this collection:

➤ The Capitol Theatre opened on Thanksgiving day, November 29, 1928. Built at the cost of $1,000,000, the beautiful beaux arts style theatre is the only one of its kind in downtown Wheeling. Originally built with the intention of adding an 8-story hotel on top of the theatre, the Great Depression made that financially impossible. Touted as “fireproof” the building was constructed using retardant materials and fully sprinkled with the latest 1928 technology.

The amenities on the property included a bowling alley, billiards room, and cafeteria in the basement, a ballroom on the 2nd floor/mezzanine level, and ground floor retail spaces. The auditorium had two balconies, 3,000 seats, and was designed to have an unhampered view so that the stage could be viewed from even the remotest corner. The walls of the auditorium were divided into large panels with no carvings but had a narrow border of decorative plaster to frame fabric panels.

The radio station, WWVA, had its studio next store in the Hawley building (now Mull Center) and broadcast its first Jamboree performance on the stage at the Capitol Theatre on April 1, 1933. At its peak, Jamboree USA was second only to the Grand Ole Opry in popularity and attracted many of the same musicians to Wheeling. The Jamboree would later move its show to several different locations around Wheeling and the area, but returned to the Capitol stage in 1969. By this time, the studios of WWVA had also relocated into the Capitol Theatre, renaming it the Capitol Music Hall, after the station and theatre was bought by Basic Communications, a firm founded by Emil Mogul, the owner of a successful New York advertising company.

The Wheeling Symphony Society also performed at the Capitol Theatre from October 6, 1929 until October 26, 1930 and moved because they did not agree with cohabitating the stage with ”moving pictures” – worried it would negatively affect the symphony experience. The Wheeling Symphony would return to having their concerts at the Capitol on October 5, 1961 and remain its home performance venue to this day.

Eventually, the theatre was owned by Clear Channel/Live Nation and was sold to the Wheeling Convention and Visitor’s Bureau in 2008-2009. The theatre underwent extensive renovations and work to address the 23 fire code violations that led to the radio entertainment conglomerate selling the theatre rather than to restore it. The Wheeling CVB completed the restoration of the building within a few years and the Greater Wheeling Sports and Entertainment Authority continues to operate the successful venue.

➤ Interested in this material? Please use our "Ask an Archivist Form" or call 304-232-0244.


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