Edwardsville Journal

Thomas Wildey back in town
Poster of theater namesake makes trip from Texas to Illinois

By Larry Ingram
Wednesday, November 28, 2007 9:15 AM CST


After a long absence, Thomas Wildey is back in Edwardsville.

The founder of the International Order of Odd Fellows, Wildey's likeness, on a poster, was recently shipped back to the city from Austin, Texas.

Dave Thomas of Dave Thomas Design in Edwardsville was visiting an antique shop in Austin, Tex., when he came upon a rare poster of Wildey.Thomas called Edwardsville Alderman Rich Walker, asking him if he wanted the poster.

"And I said, 'Yes, we want it,'" Walker said. "'Bring Thomas Wildey back home.'"

The poster was printed by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the organization that built the Wildey Theatre, it is being reconditioned and framed by Over the Edge Custom Framing on Edwardsville.

Walker said he would like the art to hang in the Wildey after it opens again.

Located on Main Street in downtown Edwardsville, the Wildey Theatre opened in 1909 as an opera house, but closed in 1984.

Through the years, the theater served as a popular movie theater in Edwardsville.

"(The Wildey Theatre) was originally built as a meeting place for their lodge and as a community event center," Walker said.

The city of Edwardsville has partially restored the Wildey Theatre, renovating the exterior of the building.

But sections of the interior still need major renovation, and the building has seen limited use since the work was completed.

The three-story masonry building, which cost about $30,000 to construct, was designed by G.H. Kennerly of St. Louis.

Currently, the city is still waiting for a proposal from a group of St. Louis investors that outlines their plan for the building, Walker said.

"We hope to have that plan by spring," he said.

Walker said he is hoping to have a birthday for Wildey after the building is renovated. Wildey's birthday is in January.

Meanwhile, the city is collecting memorabilia about the Wildey, to post it on its Web site.

Walker said he is looking for any kind of information about the former Edwardsville resident.

"It could be an old eight-mm film of an experience at the Wildey," he said. "This poster will be a nice addition to that collection."

The second floor of the Wildey served as a meeting hall for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows,

Through the years, the Wildey served as a community theater and movie house, but eventually closed with the showing of "The Big Chill" on March 8, 1984.

The Edwardsville Historic Preservation Commission later designated the Wildey Theatre as a "Local Landmark" in 1986.

The city acquired the theater with a state grant in 1999, with hopes of restoring the theater. The goal is for the auditorium to be used again as a venue for live performances and classic films.

For more information on Wildey Theatre, visit
www.wildeytheatre.com.

E-mail:
lingram@yourjournal.com