224 Eighth Street
Cairo, IL 62914
Seats: 685 (907?)
The Gem Theatre opened when Cairo, IL was still a bustling transportation hub. As the railroads bypassed the city and siphoned off river traffic, the town began a long, slow decline. The theatre was gutted by fire in 1934 but rebuilt two years later. The theatre finally closed in 1978 and after failed preservation efforts by the city and state in the 2000s, was in pretty desperate shape when I visited in 2011.
When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone; let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for ... and that men will say, as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, "See! this our fathers did for us." (John Ruskin)