Honor the bank’s gift, and the Colony’s history, too

It was 1949 when a contest determined the new name of the Hippodrome in Marietta and it became the Colony Theatre.

In the years following, the site hosted some of the nation’s most famous celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart and Judy Garland.

In 1957, more than 25,000 fans crowded onto the streets of downtown Marietta as the theater hosted the world premiere of “Battle Hymn” starring Rock Hudson as Marietta native Col. Dean Hess.

But on Wednesday, the Colony Theatre became the Peoples Bank Theatre, a change we think will be questioned by some in the community.

The name was given because the bank donated $250,000 to the renovation and restoration of the theater, the largest single private donation for the $7 million project.

The gift will mean construction can begin on the theater this year and could be complete in spring 2014. It has the potential to allow the city to offer large-scale shows and productions and bring in visitors from well beyond the region.

The donation was generous, it was important and we’re happy to see Peoples Bank putting money back into the local community.

We’re also excited to see the long-awaited project moving forward, but losing the Colony Theatre name now takes away decades of history from the site.

This is a theater where the arts will be celebrated. Naming it after a bank seems corporate and impersonal.

It may work for a large stadium or arena in a major city-where it’s become a trend- but not for a theater nestled between buildings on the brick streets of Marietta.

This is a city where history is important and celebrated. It’s important to locals, and tourists seeking the historical downtown experience would likely be more intrigued by the historic Colony Theatre than the Peoples Bank Theatre.

Isn’t there another way to honor the bank for its generous gift? The bank does a lot for the community and should be recognized.

Or could there be another way to make sure the legacy of the Colony Theatre name doesn’t disappear?

We hope those on the theater board will consider other options that could recognize both an important business in our community as well as the important history of a Marietta landmark.