‘Outstanding’ historic restoration: Wabash’s Eagles Theatre earns Indiana Landmarks award

Have you ever experienced the satisfaction of renovating a space? 

The time and resources required upfront may feel daunting, but the results are almost always worth it in the end. 

While many have only experienced renovation on a small scale, imagine the satisfaction of completely renovating and bringing back to life a historic building in your community. That’s what The Honeywell Foundation – which does business as Honeywell Arts & Entertainment - experienced with their renovation of Eagles Theatre in Wabash.

The marquee at the Eagles Theatre before and after renovations.This $16-million project has given back to the Wabash community a local landmark in the form of a beautiful, multi-use, five-story building that will serve the people of Wabash and beyond for years to come. 

The Eagles Theatre was originally constructed for entertainment and community purposes in 1906 by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. It was first a vaudeville theater and later switched to a movie theater in the 1930s. But, by the time Honeywell acquired the building in 2010, Eagles Theatre was in need of major work

The stage at the Eagles Theatre.The Honeywell team and community leaders came together to imagine what the theater could be, and after a two-year renovation project, the facility is grander than ever. In addition to its main three-story theater, it offers second-story studios for a high school Media Arts program and a fourth-floor ballroom with hand-painted ceilings that hadn’t been used since the 1940s. 

“The result is a landmark that functions as well as any new building, while still retaining its classic appearance,” says Indiana Landmarks, America's largest private statewide historic preservation organization based in Indiana.

In 2022, Indiana Landmarks awarded Honeywell Arts and Entertainment its venerable Cook Cup award for Outstanding Restoration of the Eagles Theatre. This award, created back in 2007, “recognizes the owner of a significant historic structure that has been transformed through a complete restoration, adhering to the highest standards in method, materials, and design,” as stated on the Indiana Landmarks website. 

The Cook Cup Award“This project exemplifies the type of achievement the Cook Cup seeks to honor,” Marsh Davis, President of Indiana Landmarks says. “In restoring the Eagles Theatre, Honeywell has not only revived a significant historic building, it has cemented the place’s status as an important community anchor.”

There have been 14 Cook Cup winners since the award's inception, and two can be found in Wabash. Across the street from Eagles Theatre is the Charley Creek Inn, which won the award in 2011. Besides Indianapolis, Wabash is the only city that has received the award more than once. 

The Charley Creek InnTod Minnich, President and CEO of Honeywell Arts & Entertainment, accepted the award on behalf of Honeywell on Sept. 10.

“It was a really special and meaningful moment to be recognized,” Minnich says. 

Also at the awards ceremony was Cathy Gatchel, Chief Development Officer for Honeywell Arts & Entertainment. She, too, felt honored to receive the Cook Cup. 

“There were some other projects that were in the running that were really amazing projects,” Gatchel says. “Indiana Landmarks takes the award very seriously, so I think that really made us feel that much more special.”

Since it reopened in 2020, the Eagles Theatre has been welcoming guests, not only from the community of Wabash but also from all of Northeast Indiana and across the U.S. 

The third floor of the Eagles Theatre.So what is the theater like and how is it used by guests? We ventured over for a tour with Director of Movie Operations Phil Meek. 

As you approach the building, you can’t help but notice the beautiful marquee proudly displaying the name “Eagles” centered between two screens announcing what film or live show you can see at the theater. Enter the front doors, and you step into a vast open lobby area, expanded by utilizing space from adjacent storefronts.

Even staff who frequent the theater, like COO of Honeywell Arts & Entertainment Kyle Dubois, who also served as the project manager for the Eagles project, says entering the building is an emotional experience. 

“When I walk in the front doors, it still gives me chills,” he says. 

Inside the Eagles Theatre before and after renovations.The custom rails, sliding glass doors, old projector, tin ceilings, and a restored mosaic of the Eagles insignia make the lobby one-of-a-kind. 

After grabbing some concessions in the lobby, you can head into the main theater on the ground level or via the stairs to second-floor balcony seating. Movies are shown every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with live shows taking place throughout the week, made possible by a retractable movie screen. But this theater isn’t your everyday movie theater; it takes you back in time with its patterns, carpet, and walls that reflect the theater’s original vaudeville design. 

The lobby of the Eagles Theatre.“I think the blending of the historical aspect of the building with the modern amenities will carry us into the future,” Meek says. “We have the feel and look of a historic building while still being modern and current.” 

Venture to the theater’s lower level, below the main floor, and you will find another theater, known as Ferguson Theatre. The 49-seat space is used not only for movies, but for parties, a lecture hall, and even for the occasional wedding proposal. The lower level also offers three practice rooms for musicians. Honeywell Arts & Entertainment offers private music lessons four days a week in this space. Dubois was one of the first patrons of these lessons. 

“It was always a goal of mine to learn piano, so I got to experience the lessons firsthand,” he says.

The dressing room at the Eagles Theatre,One important addition in the lower level is also accessible restrooms.

“The former theater was not accessible in any way, shape, or form,” says Gatchel. “We wanted to ensure that anyone who wants to see a movie or be involved in our programs has the opportunity to do so.”

The second floor of the theater is being used by area high school students enrolled in the Honeywell-Heartland Career Center Media Arts Program. The second floor houses a recording studio, editing room, classroom spaces, and more. You can learn more about the Media Arts program here.

The second floor of the Eagles Theatre.On the third floor, you will find three conference room meeting spaces that are used for a variety of purposes, including classroom space, community business meetings, and many other opportunities. The third floor also provides access to the suite-level theater seating. 

“One of the really special spaces is the suite-level seating,” Minnich says. “We took a balcony that hadn’t been used in decades and turned it into premium seating.” Groups can reserve this space for a special viewing experience. 

Last, but certainly not least, is the fourth floor of Eagles Theatre, which houses the grand ballroom. Housing up to 180 guests, the ballroom is a beautiful and premier venue for corporate events, class reunions, and of course, weddings and receptions. To make your event planning process even easier, Honeywell has included a full-service kitchen and two conference rooms that can be used as bridal suites. 

The ballroom at the Eagles Theatre before and after renovations.According to Dubois, the most striking feature of this space is the restored ceiling designs, which were hand-painted by a team of artists. 

“When you walk into the ballroom, you just look around and think, ‘Wow, this looks like it would have 100 years ago,’” Dubois says. “It’s an awesome feeling.” 

What was once a worn down and neglected space, is now a state-of-the-art theater and multipurpose facility in Wabash’s community. Visit Wabash for a show or event at the Eagles Theatre to see for yourself the transformation that took place here. 
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