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Historic Masonic Theatre transformed into community and arts hub – By Taylor Kanost


Clifton Forge is most famous for its train history, but the town actually has a deep arts and theater background that dates back to the early 20th century.

At that time, when the town was a bustling railroad stop, the town had six different theater and art venues. Over time, most of those buildings have been lost to history, but the Historic Masonic Theatre has remained a staple in the Clifton Forge community.

After several years of little to no use, the facility built in 1905 is getting a facelift in the hope of creating a hub for the already vibrant Clifton Forge arts community.

“We have the Clifton Forge School of the Arts, Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts, neat little antique and music shops,” said Jeff Stern, Executive Director at the Historic Masonic Theatre. “If we were going to be the only thing to open up in Clifton Forge I would be a little worried, but already the partnerships are here.”

The renovation includes an upgrade to the 545-seat auditorium which includes more leg room and wider seats.

The third floor has been transformed from the old Masonic lodge to a community room that can be used for everything from dinner and dancing to weddings and receptions.

On the bottom floor, an “incubator” lounge has been created to try out some new and different ideas.

“We will do things such as poetry readings, singer and songwriter performances, and play readings,” said Stern.

Organizers say there has always been an affinity for the arts in Clifton Forge, and this new facility will just reinforce that feeling.

“This is just reinvigorating it and adding a chunk that was missing in the past,” said John Hillbrt, President of Masonic Theatre Inc.

The renovation cost approximately $6.5 millon.

A grand re-opening will be held July 1-3 at which time various performances and tours of the new facility will be held.

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