History of the Lamp Theatre
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 soon 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. 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 its share of the project. Their numbers grew to 100 plus members. 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. 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.
With only two weeks remaining before the grant expired, the future for The Lamp looked bleak. The Borough of Irwin approached the State and asked that the grant be transferred to The Borough of Irwin and extended two years. The State of Pennsylvania agreed. The Borough appointed a board to oversee construction and continue to raise funds. In March of 2013 the Borough assumed ownership of the Theatre for $1. The Irwin Project, a non-profit dedicated to the betterment of Irwin, then became fundraising arm of the project, and these two organizations began the largest volunteer effort in the history of Irwin. The Borough met it’s $150,000 obligation not with tax dollars, but with a combination of private donations, and over 3000 volunteer hours. In August of 2015, The Borough signed an agreement with the newly formed non-profit Lamp Theatre Corporation to operate the theatre, and the Lamp began limited operations. Exactly one year later the Lamp held its grand opening.