Lack of funding means Maxie Theater will come down

Friday, April 1, 2016
The Trumann Area Fine Arts Council has been unable to raise the funds needed to restore the Maxie Theatre. (DT Photo/Corey Clairday)

The Trumann Area Fine Arts Council (TAFAC) faced a tough decision recently when they decided it was time for the Maxie Theatre to be put to rest. The council decided unanimously that, due to lack of funding, the building will have to be torn down.

"It's a sad day for Trumann," said Ronnie Harrison, TAFAC member, "especially after the effort put into trying to restore it." But Harrison said a lack of funding and the deterioration of the building has made the decision a necessary one.

The Fine Arts Council originally acquired the Maxie in 2012 after owner Jack Noel passed away. TAFAC member Betty Payne talked Pauline Noel, who had run the theatre with her husband, into donating the theatre to the Fine Arts Council after it closed down. The TAFAC had planned to restore the building using donations and grant money.

According to TAFAC member Letha Owens, the very first donation came from Karen Davis, who grew up in Trumann and worked at the Maxie as a young girl. From there, the TAFAC raised $1,400 in donations over the years and received $500 from Entergy.

The fundraisers have not raised nearly enough money. Harrison said a lot of the money raised has gone to maintenance, and no major work can be done because it costs too much. Harrison estimated it would take around $300,000 to $500,000 to restore the Maxie.

"In its present condition, the Maxie doesn't meet code," Owens said. According to Owens and Harrison, the Maxie needs major roof work since it was damaged in the last big storm. The building needs to be rewired, needs heating and cooling, the walls are cracking, everything is deteriorating, and it needs to be completely refurnished. Owens said the winter had been especially hard on the building since it currently has no heat, and the TAFAC discovered that mold is another of the Maxie's issues. "Mold has always been a problem. When we got it, we didn't know about the mold," Owens said.

Mayor Barbara Lewallen, who has been a part of the TAFAC for years, said they have not had much luck getting grants for the project because all the grants they found are matching grants, which the TAFAC cannot afford to match.

Lewallen said the group has talked to interested parties about the Maxie who would repurpose the brick and concrete blocks. "We can get it cleaned up and keep a lot of it out of the landfill," Lewallen said.

All the members of the TAFAC expressed disappoitment at not being able to raise the money needed to restore the Maxie. "I remember how excited we were when we first got it," Owens said.

"And now how disappointed we are that we can't fix it," Harrison added.

According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, the Maxie Theatre opened in August of 1947 and was originally built by local entrepreneur Zell Jaynes, his brother Lonnie, and John Hurd. In 1956, Jack and Pauline Noel moved to Trumann and leased the Old Grand Theatre. The Maxie was leased to Lloyd Hutchins at that time, and Jack Noel managed it for him while Hutchins went to Oklahoma to work. Hutchins died in a car accident, and Noel finished out the term of Hutchin's lease and bought the Maxie in 1958.

The Maxie was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 7, 2011. The Maxie closed in 2012 and Jack Noel passed away that July. Pauline Noel donated the theatre to the TAFAC and moved to Oklahoma, where she passed away in September of 2013.

The TAFAC is currently doing cleanup at the Maxie, and any who are interested in helping can contact Owens at 870-483-3001.

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