The State Theatre is the only surviving early movie palace in Ithaca and is widely regarded as the finest example of its kind. Opened in 1928, the State embodies the 1920s shift from vaudeville to moving pictures. The building dates to 1915, when it was originally designed as an automobile garage and showroom. Well-known theater architect Victor Rigaumont was in charge of its conversion, which kept the exterior minimally altered but transformed the interior into a “feast for the senses.” Rigaumont incorporated Moorish and Renaissance Revival styles and added Collegiate Gothic symbolism to recognize Cornell University in a final design noted as a richly ornamented, atmospheric cinema and vaudeville palace. In 1998, Historic Ithaca purchased the long vacant building and, in the coming years, restored it to its former splendor. Historic Ithaca owned and operated the theater until it sold the State to a newly created nonprofit, the State of Ithaca, Inc., in 2009.
Drawing by Barry Haul, 1999
Newsletter: Spring 1998