WIUM Tristates Public Radio

The Legacy Theater Planning An Upgrade

Jul 26, 2019

Supporters of The Legacy Theater in Carthage would like to install sound and lighting systems in the theater. They are off to a good start raising money for the project.

Donors have put up $50,000 and are encouraging the community to match that by the end of the year.

“We would like to have the kind of systems that the performers we have are accustomed to. That’s why we’re targeting this,” said Joy Swearingen, chairperson of the theater’s fundraising committee and a member of the Legacy Foundation board.

Credit Terry Newell of Crooked Creek Gallery

Swearingen believes the systems will pay for themselves over time if the theater can buy its own. She said the theater must currently rent professional quality sound and lighting systems, which she said cost $1,200-$1,500 per show. 

She is encouraging people to contribute to the campaign because she believes the theater contributes to the local economy.

“Busloads of people come (for the shows). They will shop, they will eat. So we feel like it’s an extremely important economic development asset for all of Hancock County and western Illinois.”

She said organizers have already improved the stage since the theater opened in 2016 by installing a springboard flooring that works well for dancers.

More information about the Legacy Theater can be found on the organization’s website and its Facebook page.

The Fall Schedule

  • Prince Ivan concert – Thursday, September 12 at 7:00 p.m.
  • Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers concert – Saturday, September 21 at 7:00 p.m..
  • Dennis Watkins, magician – Thursday, October 10 at 7:00 p.m.
  • Bee Gees Gold: A Tribute to the Bee Gees – Saturday, October 19, 2:00 p.m.
  • The Highwaymen Live: A Musical Tribute Show – Saturday, November 9 at 7:00 p.m.
  • The Prophecy (A Tribute to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra) --  Saturday, November 30 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
  • Minnesota Ballet performs "The Nutcracker" -- December 5, 6, and 7

A Brief History of the Site

Swearingen said the building originally served as an auditorium, chapel, and lecture hall for the old Carthage College, which built it in the middle of the last century.

After the school moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin, Robert Morris College took over the campus and used the building as an auditorium.  Swearingen said there were a couple other owners after Robert Morris left, but the campus was eventually abandoned and fell into disrepair.

She said Prairieland Investment Group (veterinarians) eventually bought the site around and donated the auditorium to Carl Sandburg College.  Swearingen said the college made renovations to the building but turned it over to the city in 2016 when the Illinois economy took a turn for the worse.

“The city of Carthage eagerly accepted it and wants to continue making improvements. The auditorium was renamed The Legacy Theater to show its important past to the community and it is operated now with the Legacy Theater Foundation,” Swearingen said.

“It’s got a long history and we’re hoping to spring it forward for a long future as well.”

She said the city acts as landlord, taking care of tasks such as mowing and snow removal. And the city provides a small stipend each month to help pay for utilities.

She said the Foundation handles the bulk of the operating expenses, with revenue coming in from ticket sales. The theater is run largely by volunteers.

Swearingen said capital campaigns are held to raise money for larger projects such as the current matching campaign for the sound and lighting systems.