In 1965 the Blair County Arts Foundation, together with Altoona Community Theatre, raised $47,500 to purchase the Historic Mishler Theatre from the Notopolous family, in order to prevent the playhouse from torn down and replaced with a parking lot.
In August of 1966 the BCAF, now the theatre’s sole proprietor, began operating from the Mishler Box Office and formulating plans for the first capital campaign to restore the 910-seat facility.
Through the efforts of the BCAF’s Mishler Committee, the Theatre was jointly recognized by the United States Department of the Interior and the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission for its historic, economic, and architectural significance and was entered on the National Register of Historic Places in May 1973. It was the only building in the city to be so honored.
Grants from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and Department of Community and Economic Development; Housing and Urban Development funding administered by the City of Altoona; Allegheny Ridge Corporation; Ward Foundation; Wolf-Kuhn Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Charities, as well as funding from the professional community and private sector, have contributed the nearly three million expended to date in refurbishing the gracious playhouse, but there is much work remaining.
In the past five years, restoration efforts have included the installation of new heating and air conditioning units; the recreation of the original front entrance; the transition of both the house and stage lighting to LED instruments; the addition of SPIRITZ Lounge to the theatre’s lower level and, most recently, the replacing of the seats and carpeting.
An additional One Million is needed to complete the theatre’s restoration, which includes all of the remaining exterior work; stabilizing the brick; replacing concrete walkways; restoring artwork; installing new windows and adding the balustrade to the top of the theatre.
As the organization continues the ongoing capital campaign, explores any and all grant opportunities, and works with state and federal legislators to be included in their initiatives, Mr. Mishler’s original vision of a playhouse, perfect and beautiful remains uppermost in the BCAF’s mission.
In 2006 the Historic Mishler Theatre celebrated its centennial anniversary. Despite a devastating fire from which many predicted there was no recovery. Despite years of neglect, deterioration and rumors of an overzealous wrecking ball, the Mishler remains.
Rising from the ashes it has carried forward a glorious spectrum of our richly entertaining past, revealing pieces of its remarkable history throughout each phase of recovery.
Today, the Mishler Theatre is regarded by a grateful community as the heart and soul of our region’s cultural life. With exciting promise for future generations, the Historic Mishler Theatre holds a life of its own and is a work of love forever in progress.