Miniature of the Month
The Russell Theatre
The Russell Theatre in 1/12th scale by Chicago miniaturists Allison Ashby and Steve Jedd is not only a favorite among visitors to the KSB Miniatures Collection, it’s a beloved structure in real life and miniature to the locals of Maysville, Kentucky. The original theater is one of only a handful of atmospheric theaters still standing in the U.S. featuring private balconies, illustrative ceiling paintings and ornately carved Spanish décor.
The artisans relied heavily on research, old photographs, and news articles to preserve the historical integrity of the piece and scraped through layers of paint at the real Russell to verify authentic color palettes. They also created hundreds of custom molding pieces to replicate the theater’s original jewel-toned color scheme and installed 85 separate lighting fixtures to recreate its dramatic lighting. It took more than 1,000 individual pieces to construct and upholster the 100 fine-scale theater chairs alone. All in all, the entire piece took more than two years to complete.
The original brick and terra cotta building located on East Third Street in Maysville opened December 4th, 1930. Built by prominent local businessman, Colonel J. Barbour Russell, he billed it as, “What the Roxy is to New York, the Russell will be to Maysville.” That was not the only flamboyant billing. The initial estimate for the theatre was $125,000, but by the time it was finished, that figure had reached $200,000, which would be about $3.1 million today.
Over the years the colorful theatre became quite the attraction and in 1953 made locals proud when hometown girl-gone-Hollywood, Rosemary Clooney, chose the Russell for the location to premiere her first film, The Stars Are Singing. While the theater was segregated at the time, Clooney insisted her best friend from childhood Blanche Chambers, who was African American, be seated with her.
Sadly, in 1983 the Russell Theatre sold its last ticket. Time, weather and neglect led to the iconic building’s deterioration and almost demise until the mid-nineties when Maysville citizens began grassroots efforts to save the historic structure. The miniature Russell Theatre contributed to the cause in 2010 and 2014 by holding events in which guests’ donations would help in the restoration of the real structure. The theater continues to undergo restoration and periodically shows movies.
The Russell Theatre is one of three Maysville buildings in 1/12th scale created by Ashby and Jedd for the KSB Miniatures Collection along with the Cox Building and the Bethel Baptist Church miniatures.