The Metropolitan Theatre is one of Morgantown’s best examples of Neo-classical Revival architecture and was described as “West Virginia’s most beautiful playhouse” upon its opening. It was designed by C.W. Bates as the small-town counterpart to New York’s Metropolitan Opera House and opened to the public on July 24, 1924.
Over 4,000 barrels of cement were used in the construction of the theatre. Additionally, the interior decorations were all designed specifically for the Met, which featured a color scheme of French gray, old rose, and gold. The building originally contained four crystal chandeliers from Czechoslovakia, featuring 2,700 pieces each, but these melted during the 1930 fire and were replaced by simpler lighting. In 1933, the Met became one of the first theatres in the country to install an air conditioning system, meaning that every cubic inch of air in the theatre was displaced with clean, fresh air every three minutes. The Met was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
The Met has housed some of the city’s best entertainment since its completion in 1924. During its early years, the Met housed operas such as “The Marriage of Figaro,” “Madame Butterfly,” and much more. “Scandals,” opening at the Met with its original cast before its multi-year run in New York, and “Pat Rooney’s Five Rodeo Boys,” featuring a three-year-old Mickey Rooney, also showed here.
As the entertainment industry changed, so did the performances at the Met. The Met was the first theatre in Morgantown to show a talking movie. During this time, the Met was selected as one of a handful of theatres across the country to show films on a pre-release basis to give production companies an indication of nationwide response. As an “index” town, Morgantown was able to see new movies up to 60 days prior to their nationwide release.
Despite the presence of the talking film, some live entertainment continued at the Met throughout the 1930s and 40s, including Ken Hackley’s “Oklahoma Cowboys,” Gene Autry’s “The Singing Cowboy,” and much more.
The Met also hosted big bands, including multiple performances by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra and Count Basie as well as performances by Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
While the Met thrived at attracting outside talent, it also played a major role as a community center. In addition to housing local shows and celebrations, the Met played a major role in WWII and Great Depression relief efforts. Learn more about the Met’s role during the Great Depression here.
Some more recent Met acts include John Denver, Helen Hayes, Maurice Evans, and Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians. Learn more about the Met in recent years here.
Check out what is going on at the Met currently here.
Take a look at the full National Register listing here.
Learn more about the Met via the Historic Downtown Morgantown Audio Walking Tour.