In 1937 the Lamp Theatre opened in downtown Irwin and for nearly seven decades entertained the residents of Irwin borough. Although the price for a movie may have changed, 21 cents for adults in 1937, the landmark held fast and became a fixture of many memories for young and old alike. In 2004 the Lamp had succumbed to the financial pressure brought on by corporate theater chains and closed its doors.
Following the closure of the Lamp Theatre, The Westmoreland Cultural Trust took ownership of the Theatre and put plans in motion to re-open The Lamp as a performing art center and movie theater. Plans were drawn up for an expanded stage and significant investments were made into the roof and the heating and air conditioning system.
On March 5th of 2009 tragedy struck. The Irwin Hotel, which sat in the neighboring lot since 1885, had a grease fire in the early hours of the morning. The fire blazed through the 124 year old building and after at least twenty fire companies managed to quell the inferno, it was not only the hotel, but also The Lamp that sustained damage.
At this point the project to re-open The Lamp was placed on hold to fix the damage sustained in the fire. In 2011, the funding mechanism came into view to re-open the Lamp Theatre. The County of Westmoreland pledged $250,000 and a state grant was sought seeking a $250,000 match. In order for this to happen, the borough of Irwin would have to come up with $150,000 as well. Irwin Councilwoman, Gail Macioice, suggested that fundraising could be done in the community to come up with this money.
A small but dedicated group of people joined together to form the Relight the Lamp Committee. This group of volunteers planned to maintain the theater and raise funds to help Irwin meet it’s share of the project. They held meetings at Cafe Supreme and their numbers grew to 100 plus members. The Westmoreland Cultural Trust put the project out to bid in the summer of 2012 and the bids came in well over the $650,000 that had been committed to the project. With no clear path forward, the Westmoreland Cultural Trust felt it had no other choice than to pull away from the project.
Although the future for The Lamp looked bleak, the committee to re-light The Lamp continued to raise funds with several successful events, and in March of 2013 the Theatre was sold to the borough of Irwin with a whopping price tag of $1.00. The Irwin Project, a non-profit dedicated to the betterment of Irwin, then became fundraising arm of the project
In 2013, Volunteers from Irwin and the surrounding area began demolition on the interior of the Theatre. From this point The Lamp had over 300 volunteers who worked tirelessly for over 3000 hours to finish the Theatre.
Almost two years of work took place to accomplish the goal of one small western Pennsylvania town and its residents. In August of 2015 The Lamp re-opened its doors with comedians Ryan Ben and Adam Schreck performing a mix of sketches and improve. During this year of “soft open” The Lamp has entertained thousands of patrons as volunteers continued to work diligently to finish the work left over from its major renovations. August 27th of 2016 will mark the Grand Opening of a fully renovated Theatre with the return of A Hard Days Night, a Beatles Tribute.
Since then, The Lamp has entertained thousands of patrons with over 200 productions varying from Award Winning Musical Theatre to Grammy Award winning National artists.
Today The Lamp stands as a testament that through hard-work and togetherness, even the seemingly impossible can be accomplished.