Cambridge's Tolley Theater May be Reopened - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Cambridge's Tolley Theater May be Reopened

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CAMBRIDGE, Md.- Nearly 20 years after the Tolley Theater closed its doors, owner Gene Tolley says he wants to see the seats packed again, and soon.

"It's been used as a movie theater over the years, a dinner theater once by us, we want to keep it a center of activity," Tolley said.

He believes the theater was built in 1915, and was operating until 1995, when he closed the doors to open a restaurant in Chincoteague.  But after returning a few years later, he found the theater had not weathered well, and did not reopen.  Today, he still operates a catering service out of the kitchen, but he's keen to reopen the theater where he met his wife.

"I had my first date with my wife at the movies here.  Which we have been married for 50 years this July.  So that's sort of a reason to hang on to it." said Tolley.

But the holdup is the building next door.  Tolley says he's nervous about putting money into the theater, which he estimates needs $300,000 dollars worth of work, until the rest of the block starts showing progress as well.

"We just can't have a building next door like that, it's a deterioration of the whole block so we're hoping the council and the people keep that in mind." said Tolley.

Deborah Divins, executive director of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, said she sees what Tolley is concerned about.

"When you walk down Main Street, it's wonderful, there's the stores and you can go shopping from store to store, but there comes a point where you get to the buildings that have been burned up or are empty and vacant.  And it suddenly becomes less inviting and people don't feel as safe walking through those areas," Divins said.

Historic Cambridge Inc., a group which has been raising money and researching grants for those properties on the 500 block, said it will be discussing the fate of the Hearn Building in February.  The group says it also plans to start construction to fix up 507 Race St., which suffered a fire in the December of 2012, in the next month.

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