KOSCIUSKO, Miss.–The Strand Theater opened 60 years ago with the lighting of a neon sign that shined just off the square in downtown Kosciusko. Thursday that neon sign was lighted again with a celebration. But the victory is not yet won.
“The Strand is a grand old lady,” said Diane Gray, whose parents opened the movie house. “Some parts like the box office reflect the bumps and scrapes of 60 odd years of living, evidence of time too precious to sand down and smooth away.”
The living has been rough for the old girl. It ceased to be the town’s main movie house in the early 2000s and fell quickly into disrepair. The roof began to leak and the rotting of the floor and some of the walls and ceiling followed quickly.
Then came interest in making it shine again. The city bought the structure and began to patch it as good as possible with whatever money they could find. Then the local development folks, the Kosciusko-Attala Development Corp. got involved and an effort to get grants from the state was underway.
The Mississippi Arts Commission dolled out $133,000, which the city then used to restore the facade. It was years long work, but Thursday’s celebration was all about that first phase. Kosciusko’s mayor, Jimmy Cockroft, told News Mississippi the biggest obstacle keeping the Strand from becoming a destination for all of central Mississippi is simply money.
“We’ve had numerous calls ‘can I rent the Strand?’ No,” he said. “There is nothing in there that is workable. Due to the roof being in the shape it was in, it’s got some floor rot. The ceiling has fallen in in some places.”
Cockroft said, though, that the goal remains to make the place a multipurpose center.
“There’s a book from Belinda Stewart, Architects, from 2008 that shows possible floor plans. That’s how long we’ve been working on this.”
There was an attempt in the past couple of years to procure a grant from MDOT to finish the project, which, at premium, would be about $1 million. Now the community is exploring other funding possibilities. The most viable means right now-donations.
“The best thing they could do is make donations to the Kosciusko Community Foundation, and that goes to the KADC at 101 North Natchez St., Kosciusko, MS 39090 and just mark it the Strand Theater Project and we’ll take care of the rest.,” he said.