NoD: Russell Theater

Maysville, KY
Russell Theater, Maysville, Ky.

In 1953, Rosemary Clooney’s first movie, The Stars are Singing, premiered at Maysville’s Russell Theater. Clooney, a Maysville native, would go on to star in White Christmas with Bing Crosby and top the music charts; the Clooney name is an important part of Kentucky’s rich cultural history.

The Russell Theater also has a rich history. Announced in 1928, the theater was constructed through the first year of the Great Depression before opening on December 4, 1930. Local businessman Col. J. Barbour Russell laid out $125,000 for the construction of a “handome, luxurious, and fireproof” theater. As with other period theaters, the decor was opulent. What makes the Russell truly unique (especially for northern Kentucky) is its architectural style: both inside and out, Spanish colonialism prevails. And like the Palace in Louisville or the State Theater in Lexington, the ceiling appears as a sky with twinkling stars. With seating originally for 700, the design included two balconies (the higher of the two being segregated for African Americans). The Lexington architecture firm of Frankel and Curtis (you may recall the same firm designed the Wolf Wile Building in Lexington)

A popular Maysville destination until suburban movie houses opened, drawing away its customers. The Russell Theater closed in 1983 and other businesses moved in before the site was totally abandoned. Weather took its toll on the building – inside and out – but preservation groups began moving in in 1995. In 1982, the building was included in the National Register as part of the historic Maysville area, but preservationists successfully had the building individually listed in 2006.