Eagles Theatre 2022 Cook Cup Recipient

The top-to-bottom transformation of a historic theater has won Indiana Landmarks’ 2022 Cook Cup for Outstanding Restoration. The Honeywell Foundation earned the award for its $16 million rehabilitation of the Eagles Theatre in Wabash. 

Built originally as a fraternal lodge, the Eagles Theatre served as the town’s only movie theater for decades. By the time Honeywell Foundation purchased it in 2010, the historic building suffered from years of deferred maintenance. After addressing the most urgent maintenance needs, Honeywell Foundation staff and board collaborated with community leaders on a vision to give the theater new life, kicking off work in 2017 to repurpose the landmark as a center for performing arts, movies, and events.

 

“This project exemplifies the type of achievement the Cook Cup seeks to honor,” says Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks. “In restoring the Eagles Theatre, Honeywell has not only revived a significant historic building, it has cemented the place’s status as an important community anchor.”

 

The Fraternal Order of the Eagles constructed the four-story theater on Market Street in 1906, with a large auditorium for vaudeville shows on the first floor, a lodge hall on the top floor, and offices and meeting rooms in between. The theater was converted to show movies in the 1920s.

 

The single-screen theater still showed movies in 2010, but the upper floors had been largely vacant for decades. Air conditioning and heating systems didn’t work properly, and the upper balcony had been closed for safety reasons. 

 

“This theater was the social fabric of our community,” says Tod Minnich, Honeywell Foundation’s president and CEO. “We felt a need to not only preserve but appreciate the place where the arts and entertainment hub of this town began.”

 

Honeywell Foundation’s two-year restoration touched all 30,000 square feet of the building, including expanding the lobby and reconfiguring the auditorium and stage to accommodate both movies and live performances. Other modernizations include new accessible restrooms, a state-of-the-art sound system, and carpet and wall treatments that reflect the theater’s original patterns and motifs. 

 

The theater’s second floor now houses the Media Arts program, where area high school students can gain hands-on experience in audio and video production for careers in media-related industries. The third floor holds meeting rooms and classrooms, and provides access to balcony suites that can be rented for private events or VIP-level views of shows in the auditorium.

 

The fourth-floor ballroom, believed to have held its last event in the 1940s, was a virtual time capsule, with remnants of a hand-painted ceilings hinting at earlier opulence. Local artists carefully photographed and re-created the ceiling artwork over several months, helping return the ballroom to its former grandeur.

 

The spread of COVID-19 forced the Eagles Theatre to close just a few weeks after its grand opening in February 2020. Even during the pandemic, however, Honeywell found creative ways to use the building, employing the second-floor studios for live and recorded broadcasts and hosting socially distanced events in the ballroom. Today, the theater sees almost daily use as a venue for movies, classes, weddings, concerts, youth theater programming, and private events.

 

“We’re really fulfilling the vision that we imagined at the very beginning,” says Dave Haist, who chaired the Honeywell Foundation board when the Eagles Theatre restoration began. “We wanted to make this more than movie theater, more than a building, but a venue that could have the biggest impact on the community, region, and state.” 

 

Each year, Indiana Landmarks awards the Cook Cup to the owner who follows the highest standards of restoration in transforming a significant historic building, with positive impact on the neighborhood or community. Indiana Landmarks created the Cook Cup for Outstanding Restoration in 2007, when the inaugural 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. The Cook family is nationally recognized for their many restorations of significant landmarks in Bloomington and throughout southern Indiana.

 

In 2011, Wabash philanthropist Richard Ford won the Cook Cup for his transformation of the Charley Creek Inn, located across the street from Eagles Theater. The 1920 building was a nearly vacant apartment building called the Red Apple Inn before Ford restored it to its original use as a hotel.

 

“Wabash, again, far over-achieves,” says Parker Beauchamp, CEO of Wabash-based insurance company INGUARD. “Where else in Indiana can one find two Cook Cup winners in neighboring properties? The Charley Creek Inn and Eagles Theatre are a testament to the community’s immense commitment to itself and to future generations.”

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Indiana Landmarks revitalizes communities, reconnects us to our heritage, and saves meaningful places. With nine offices located throughout the state, Indiana Landmarks helps people rescue endangered landmarks and restore historic neighborhoods and downtowns. People who join Indiana Landmarks receive its bimonthly magazine, Indiana Preservation. For more information on the not-for-profit organization, call 317-639-4534, 800-450-4534, or visit www.indianalandmarks.org.

 

Honeywell Arts & Entertainment encompasses the full range of arts opportunities and venues of The Honeywell Foundation, a nonprofit public arts charity in Wabash, Indiana. The organization is dedicated to the enhancement of artistic, social, cultural, and recreational opportunities for all. Offerings take place at six venues: the Honeywell Center, Honeywell House, Eagles Theatre, Charley Creek Gardens, Dr. James Ford Historic Home, and the 13-24 Drive In. Programs are made possible by the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts: a federal agency, and by generous donors. For more information about The Honeywell Foundation, visit HoneywellArts.org.