Cook Cup Winner!

“…a labor of love fueled by a dedicated all-volunteer force…”

Congratulations to Prairie Preservation Guild, winners of the 2016 Cook Cup for the amazing restoration of Fowler Theater!

Check out this video for the inspiring story of the our grassroots effort to save a treasured community landmark.

Indiana Landmarks, a private nonprofit organization that saves historic places, announced Prairie Preservation Guild as the winner of its annual Cook Cup for Outstanding Restoration for its transformation of the 1940 Fowler Theatre in Fowler. Indiana Landmarks presented the award at an event on April 30 in Indianapolis.

Over the past two decades, the lights have gone out on the marquees of downtown movie theaters throughout the state. In 2000, that was about to happen in Fowler, population 2,300, a town northwest of Lafayette. The owner intended to close the Fowler Theatre and strip out and sell the original Art Deco elements.

Local advocates formed the Prairie Preservation Guild to save the Fowler. The nonprofit group bought the building and embarked on a 14-year restoration that concluded last year.

“Prairie Preservation Guild scoped out a three-phase, pay-as-you-go restoration plan, beginning with the roof, the main façade and marquee,” said Tommy Kleckner, director of Indiana Landmarks’ Western Regional Office. The group recreated missing porcelain-enameled steel façade panels, and restored the Art Deco stainless steel doors and poster cases.

Using mostly local contractors, led by Schutter Construction, and involving the community in the project, Prairie Preservation Guild recruited volunteers who pulled up old carpeting, removed soggy plaster, and also sold the tickets, made the popcorn, and cleaned up after every movie.

To restore the Fowler’s 840-bulb marquee, Prairie Preservation Guild “sold” each bulb for $10, with the underwriter’s name inscribed on a paper light bulb taped to the wall in the unrestored lobby. The nonprofit also won grants from a variety of local and state sources.

“Mission Possible” appeared on the marquee when the theater closed for five months in 2012 to restore the lobby, renovate the concession stand, and revamp the tiny antiquated restrooms to meet accessibility codes. They renovated original elements and replaced missing features with Art Deco-inspired replacements similar to what was visible in historic photos. The group also raised over $100,000 for the conversion to digital projection.

The Cook Cup selection committee applauded Prairie Preservation Guild for orchestrating a stunning transformation that involved the entire community.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a more can-do, grassroots effort, or a more exemplary restoration,” declared Indiana Landmarks President Marsh Davis.

“The restored theater draws people from throughout Benton County and beyond, and the project helped inspire a downtown streetscape improvement project,” noted Carl Cook, Indiana Landmarks board chairman and head of the Cook Cup selection committee.

Indiana Landmarks inaugurated the Cook Cup for Outstanding Restoration in 2007, when the prize went to the award’s namesake family in honor of its transformation of the West Baden and French Lick Springs hotels in southern Indiana.

Carl Cook presented the Cook Cup at Rescue Party, an annual benefit for Indiana Landmarks’ Endangered Places programs, following a brief video by Road Pictures highlighting the Fowler Theatre restoration.

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