PHILIPSBURG – Rebecca Inlow, of Osceola Mills and a member of the Rowland Theatre board, will be the featured speaker at the annual dinner of the Philipsburg Historical Foundation.
It will be held at the Parish Hall of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Philipsburg, beginning at 6 p.m. Nov. 8.
The subject will be the restored Rowland Theatre in Philipsburg, now 100 years old, and the life of its creator, Philipsburg capitalist and philanthropist, Charles Rowland.
“By dint of an extraordinary amount of research and investigation, Becky Inlow has developed a huge trove of photos and information on the career of Charles Rowland and his grand theater in Philipsburg, which has been celebrating its 100th anniversary with a year-long series of events and special programs,” says President Mark Seinfelt of the Philipsburg Historical Foundation.
“Together with theater manager Kevin Conklin, Becky has put together a beautiful power point presentation, which contains many new discoveries.”
“Charles Rowland was a major mover and shaker in the Philipsburg area from the time of his arrival in the town in 1903 until his death in 1921,” says Inlow.
“He was involved in the Moshannon Coal Co., the Philipsburg Electric Co., the Centre & Clearfield Street Railway and the Alley Popper Railroad.
“In addition, he served two terms in the U.S. Congress, from 1914 to 1918. The famed staged wreck of the Alley Popper in Chester Hill in September of 1914 was part of the hoopla surrounding his first run for Congress.
“It was filmed by the Lubin Film Co. of Philadelphia, early studio pioneers. Charles Rowland himself gave a speech to the crowd before the event, promoting his candidacy, which was endorsed by U.S. Senator Boise Penrose, the Pennsylvania Republican boss.
“The speech and the staged head-on collision were made into a short film that was shown to local audiences during the campaign. In spite of his self-chosen association with a train wreck Mr. Rowland won by a wide margin.”
“It was totally natural for Charles Rowland to segue from appearing in films to establishing a venue where they could be shown, and he seized his chance after the old Pierce Opera House in Philipsburg was destroyed in a 1910 fire,” says Conklin.
“Mr. Rowland bought the old Pierce lot, and by 1917 had created the Rowland Theatre, where generations of Philipsburg area moviegoers had some of their most memorable experiences, especially in the balcony. Vaudeville and variety shows also played the theater.”
“Charlie Rowland was making money on movies both coming and going,” says PHF Curator Luther Gette. “In the early days, visitors to his movie palace often traveled on the C&C trolley or the Alley Popper, in both of which he owned a large share.
“The trolley stopped directly in front of the theater, so customers could hardly miss a beat from the fare box to the ticket office, or vice-versa.
“Becky Inlow has uncovered so much information on Charlie’s early life and his various interlocking enterprises that her program is really an astonishment to hear and to behold, the latter thanks to Kevin’s great work with photos and documents in making the power point.”
Thanks to many donors and much work by dedicated volunteers, the original marquee of the Rowland was recreated in time for the 100th anniversary of its opening, on June 4, 2017, and a week-long celebration of this event was marked by many special programs and celebrations.
Conklin and Inlow are in process of producing a book about the Rowland’s first 100 years, including a section on the 100th anniversary celebrations, and it is hoped the book will be available in time for the Historical Foundation dinner.
Tickets to the program are $25 per person for a buffet dinner catered by movie maven Butch Molesky of Mountaintop Catering.
For tickets, call Paul Springer at 814-342-2480, Jeff Sleigh at 814-762-2041 or Luther Gette at 814-342-4842. Please order your tickets by Nov. 1.