Does it seem like Downtown Evansville has a special glow? That gleaming radiance comes from the newly installed marquee beckoning audiences to the Victory Theatre at Sixth and Main streets.
The sign was ceremoniously lit Aug. 11, concluding many years and an untold number of man-hours required to raise funds for its creation. A few hundred people, along with Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, cheered as a countdown hit zero and Victory Theatre Executive Director Scott Schoenike gave the signal. The display immediately came alive, crowned by an eagle that spreads its wings through LED animation.
“The initial budget for the restoration did not include a replica being made of the original marquee,” says Lora Melone, director of Victory Theatre and board chair of the nonprofit Friends of the Victory. “The Friends of the Victory set out to make that their mission.”
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1982, the Victory Theatre first opened in 1921 to provide entertainment for the bustling River City and its outlying rural populations. The theater’s name reflects the country’s World War I triumph and resulting patriotism flowing through the U.S.
Suspended above the box office entrance, the new theater had a five-story incandescent and moving neon sign worthy of any theater district. It served as a beacon directing patrons to a steady stream of moving pictures, vaudeville acts, plays, and musical performances. But five years later, that original sign was replaced when the venue’s management changed. Forever gone, never to be found, it was not forgotten.
A boost in enthusiasm for the project came a decade ago when Schoenike discovered the initial project, including approved design plans. Interest built as Friends of the Victory applied for an Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority $50,000 matching grant. In addition to the dollars raised in the past, a push was made for donations through several campaigns. In total, 3,700 unique donors contributed.
“It really makes us a landmark at the end of historic Main Street,” Melone says