WARREN - It's been four decades since people queued to enter the Robins Theater on East Market. Saturday, nearly 300 people waited in a line that wrapped around the corner to glimpse into the long-closed theater and other historic buildings in the city.
"It brings back such memories. I can just see my grandfather in the doorway, like I was a kid," Shirley Bierce said. "He'd always be waiting for us."
Bierce's grandfather worked in the ticket booth of the theater and during its heyday, her husband Paul Bierce said, he would let the couple in for free.
"She was a cheap date," he said.
Tales of the theater buzzed through the line as people anticipated revisiting their teenage hangout, where kisses were stolen on the balcony nicknamed the "smoocher's lounge" and for a couple of quarters you could spend the entire afternoon watching Doris Day and Cary Grant.
The ornate theater was built in 1923 by Dan Robins and closed in 1974.
"I met my best friend here when I was 13 and we're still friends," said Shirley Bell of Warren. "I can still remember the movie we were watching ... it was 'Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.'"
The Unseen City Tour was organized by The Robins Project, a grassroots initiative to revitalize Warren through the $14 million restoration and repurposing of the theater. Beginning at the theater, participants visited the Chase Tower, Artisan Cafe, the Trumbull County Courthouse, the new Trumbull Art Gallery location, a restaurant in the basement of the Best Western hotel and the Masonic Lodge. The tour raised approximately $2,000 to pay for summer events and a capital campaign, which will include restoring the original marquee.
Warren native and The New School alumna Melissa Holmes is spearheading the effort with local community leaders and the students and faculty of The New School in New York.
Most recently, students of the university presented concepts for the future of the theater including making it into a multipurpose building encasing a restaurant, brewery, recording studios, an event hall, a woodshop and more.