The mission statement for all historical preservation efforts could be simply a line from Joni Mitchell’s song, “Big Yellow Taxi”: “... You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
Charleroi knows what it has in its 1890s Coyle Theater, and so a long-stalled push to restore and preserve it has been rejuvenated. We hope borough residents realize what a valuable asset the theater could be and rally around the efforts of the Mid Mon Valley Cultural Trust, which owns the McKean Avenue building.
The days when government could be counted on to share the cost of restoring old buildings are long gone; restoring the Coyle must be done with private money, and lots of it. Key to the effort will be a business plan that will encourage investors and provide income to operate and maintain the building once it has been restored.
The city of Washington was home to several theaters from the same period, all of which have fallen to the wrecking ball. The surviving theater – the former Midtown – is of a later vintage, brought back to life by private investment and now in use as a church.
Charleroi can and should avoid the regret felt by Washington.