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Fans call for the return of the ‘C’ to the Calvin Theatre marquee

  • <br/>Calvin theater on king Street Northampton. <br/>
  • <br/>Calvin theater on king Street Northampton. <br/>
  • <br/>Calvin theater on king Street Northampton. <br/>

— Passers-by on King Street near the city center might wonder if the historic theater there has been renamed after some guy called Alvin. The silver ‘C’ in the Calvin Theatre’s marquee dropped off months ago, leaving only a dark outline on the faded blue background.

Last week, a Williamsburg resident who wants to keep the Calvin looking swell said that after passing by the lost letter for months, he decided to take action to encourage the Iron Horse Entertainment Group to restore the full moniker. Thomas Adams took a lighthearted approach, starting a Facebook page he named “Put the C back in Calvin.” He started the page Thursday, and by Monday it had nearly 100 fans.

“I think Alvin’s a great name,” Adams said jokingly. (But he likes Calvin better.)

“I think the response on the page is an obvious indicator that other people have the same concern that I do,” he said. “We don’t want to see the quality of one of the things that makes Northampton special go by the wayside.”

Jim Neill, Iron Horse Entertainment Group’s marketing and publicity director, joked Monday that the group was in fact rechristening the venue the Alvin Theatre, but then said he and IHEG owner Eric Suher take the repair of the marquee seriously.

“We really appreciate that people have civic pride and that this is a landmark in downtown Northampton,” he said. “We’re delighted with the Facebook page. It’s like somebody tugging on your shirt and saying, ‘don’t forget.’”

Neill said the aluminum character was dislodged when the marquee was struck by a delivery truck a few months ago. “As many times as the truck-eating bridge has been hit by trucks, it’s been at least as many times that our sign has been hit,” he said, explaining that truck drivers often forget to look up when they drive a tire up onto the curb to get out of the King Street traffic. “It’s been dozens of times, and each time there’s a lot of paperwork.”

The fateful hit also knocked off some of the metal border of the sign. “This one really knocked it silly,” Neill said.

He said the replacement of the leading letter has been delayed because the lighting that backlights the letter with a blue neon glow was damaged and still needs to be repaired. They might consider hanging the C back up as a temporary fix and fixing the lights later “if it will calm the citizenry,” he said.

So far, no musicians or audience members have complained about not being able to locate the venue due to the temporary Alvin sign. “The C is still burned on there,” Neill said.

Mayor David J. Narkewicz said that while he has heard about the absent letter via Facebook, no one has called his office about it. He contacted Neill about it after hearing from the Gazette Monday.

“It’s certainly one of the historic landmarks in the downtown and I’m sure that bringing this to the owner’s attention will lead to them addressing it,” he said.

Adams called the Calvin Theatre “one of the finest places in Northampton to see a show,” and said he just wants to keep it that way.

“I know it’s just a sign — there are other much larger issues in the world to champion,” he said. “I just hope this isn’t the beginning of some type of upkeep issue for the Calvin, which was so nicely redone.”

The 1,300-seat theater was originally built in 1924 as a performance hall and later served as a first-run movie house. It deteriorated over time, closed in the 1980s, and underwent 18 months of extensive renovations before it reopened in October 1998 as a live performance venue.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

Legacy Comments2

We knew what you meant, and we do appreciate your hard work to keep that marquee repaired. Personally, I think a deep ditch where the curb is now would solve the problem. Geoff Rogers

I actually said "don't forget that we care." The intention of the quote being that the Facebook page is a reassuring voice from the community that people, like me, really love this town and the little things matter as well as the big ones. Of course I did not actually mean "don't forget to fix the sign." This is not, as has been implied, a case of neglect or indifference. The sign will be fixed and it has taken longer than we would have liked. It's been frustrating that every time we make a repair to the sign, it gets bashed again within a few months. We need to do it correctly. The fact that it's such a prominent landmark has made the delay a conspicuous one, I know.

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