Historic Theater Grants FAQ

When can I apply for grants?

The Historic Theater Grant application period for the 2023-2025 biennium will open on Friday, September 1, 2023, and will close on Tuesday, October 31, 2023 at 11:59pm. Applications can be submitted here: https://preservewa.org/historic-theater-grants-application/.

Note: We strongly encourage you to review the entire application and prepare your submission in a separate text document before submitting your answers and attachments in the online form.

How do I know if a theater is eligible to apply?

Funds may be requested for the stabilization and rehabilitation of theaters that are:

  • Originally built as a theater;
  • Currently operating as or will be restored for use as a theater;
  • In need of capital improvement (physical repairs); and
  • Currently listed (or applying to be listed) in either the Washington Heritage Register or the National Register of Historic Places, which generally means at least 50 years old. For theaters not yet listed, a nomination must be submitted to DAHP and approved for formal review prior to any grant funds being released.

If you have questions about your building’s eligibility or if it is not yet listed on a historic register, please contact Michael Houser, the State Architectural Historian, before completing this application at (360) 890-2634 or via email at mi************@da**.gov.

Does a theater need to be listed on a historic register to be eligible?

Yes, theaters must be currently listed (or applying to be listed) in either the Washington Heritage Register or the National Register of Historic Places, which generally means at least 50 years old. For theaters not yet listed, a nomination must be submitted to Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP) and approved for formal review prior to any grant funds being released.

If you have questions about your theater’s designation status, please contact Michael Houser, the State Architectural Historian, at (360) 890-2634 or via email at mi************@da**.gov.

What can I request funds for? What projects are eligible?

Stabilization and rehabilitation of historic theater buildings, including but not limited to repairs of building shell and structure such as roof and foundation, theater features such as marquee and decorative finishes, building systems such as plumbing and electrical, and accessibility improvements in compliance with ADA requirements.

All work must comply with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Rehabilitation of Historic Properties. Historic materials, features, and finishes should be retained and repaired when possible. In the case of severe deterioration, historic materials may be replaced with new as long as the new materials identically replicate the original in dimension, appearance, material type, etc. To make sure the materials you are proposing align with the grant requirements, materials information must be submitted with your application as an attachment.

If you have any questions about program methodology or materials appropriateness, please contact the Grant Administrator before submitting a grant application. The Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation also provides Theater Preservation Guidance.

How much money can I ask for?

Applicants may request up to 50% of their overall project expenses up to a maximum grant of $75,000. Historic Theater Grants are matching reimbursement grants. They require a 1-1 match, so for every dollar the state awards in grant funds, you will need to match it with a dollar of your own money or with donated goods, services, or labor (valued at $25/hour or market rate for donated professional services). This match must be demonstrated in the grant application.

Theaters located in jurisdictions with a population below 50,000 or within distressed counties, as defined by the Employment Security Department, may apply with a 25% or 1:3 match. To verify “distressed” status, please visit: https://esd.wa.gov/labormarketinfo/distressed-areas.

Applicants may request up to $75,000. The average grant award is about $15,000-$30,000, while our highest-ever grant award was $75,000.

Where does this money come from?

Funding for the Historic Theater Grant Program comes from the Washington State Capital Budget approved by the Washington State Legislature every two years. Because it is public money, grant contracts with private property owners (including nonprofit owners) include a five, ten, or fifteen-year term historic preservation easement (depending on the amount of grant funding), which ensure the theater is not adversely impacted by future action.

Are there special requirements for using this grant?

Yes! All private property owners (including nonprofit owners) who receive a Historic Theater Grant are required to enter into a property easement to ensure the theater is not adversely impacted by future action, such as demolition or inappropriate alteration. The easement must be notarized and filed with your property deed at your county’s auditor’s office before grant funds are disbursed. The term of the easement will depend on the amount of grant funding, and will carry forward to any new owners within the term of the easement should the property be sold.

If the property owner wishes to make any substantial changes to the property during the period of the easement or maintenance agreement, those changes will need to adhere to the same historic standards to which the grant project was subject. Property owners should contact the grant administrators to consult about the proposed changes before any additional work commences.

Further, a key program goal is to support continued or improved use of historic theaters through their physical preservation which provide economic benefit to our citizens and enrich communities throughout Washington. As such, visibility from the public right-of-way is the bare minimum achievement of the public benefit requirement. In the rare occurrence that a theater is no longer visible or accessible to the public, the applicant must provide a plan for limited public engagement such as hosting an annual screening or tour.

How are grant awards selected?

The grant application projects are reviewed based on the following criteria:

  • SIGNIFICANCE – Relative historic, cultural, and social significance of the theater to the local community;
  • THEATRIC USE – Historic, continued, and/or intended operations as a theater;
  • URGENCY & RELEVANCE – Urgency of the threat and need for repair in relation to identified conditions;
  • PRESERVATION – Extent to which the project preserves historic character and extends the useful life of the theater;
  • PUBLIC BENEFIT – Physical presence in community as well as average audience/visitorship;
  • CONTRIBUTION – Extent to which the project leverages other sources of financial or community assistance;
  • EQUITY & ACCESSIBILITY – To what extent does the project continue, improve upon, or expand the theater’s service to marginalized or under-represented communities; and
  • READINESS – Readiness of the applicant to initiate and complete the project and quality of application.

Special consideration includes:

  • GEOGRAPHIC DISTRUBUTION – Additional attention may be given to rural, distressed, or otherwise often neglected regions within the state.
  • ECONOMIC RECOVERY – Additional attention may be given to theaters that were most impacted by the pandemic

What is the process for actually receiving the money? How does reimbursement work?

The Historic Theater Grants are reimbursement grants, which means that projects must be financed up front and grant awards are only distributed on a reimbursement basis after the work is completed. As you are planning your finances, please allow about six weeks for reimbursements to be processed.

Theater Grant recipients must submit all invoices and itemized receipts, along with all proofs of payment, to receive grant funds. Invoices and itemized receipts detail the items purchased and/or work to be done. Proofs of payment show how the items or work was paid for, either with credit card receipts, cancelled/cashed checks, or in the case of paying in cash, a receipt indicating cash payment. If a credit card receipt is lost or an image of a cancelled/cashed check is not available, bank statements (with private/unrelated information redacted as needed) can be submitted as proof of payment.

Can I submit more than one application?

No, only one application is allowed per organization/entity. However, applicants may propose multiple work elements in one application. 

I applied previously and did not receive a grant. Can/should I apply again?

Yes! We welcome repeat applicants and have awarded many projects after their second or even third grant request. Although the number of times a property owner applies for grants does not factor into the scoring of your application, we do keep track of who applies each round and it is a part of the committee’s deliberation for the grant awards.

I applied previously and did receive a grant. Can/should I apply again?

Yes. Whether or not you received a grant, you can always apply again for the program.

The application asks for high-quality photos of my theater. How can I learn more about capturing good photos of my historic resource?

For tips on how to best photograph your theater, view our DAHP Photography Guide. Use this guide to prepare the following kinds of photos required in your application:

  • Building images – At least four (4) high-resolution digital images showing each side of the building
  • Detail images – Up to 15 high-resolution digital images clearly illustrating the condition of the area(s) of the proposed work and the need for/urgency of repair
  • Context image(s) – At least one (1) high-resolution digital image showing the view of the building from a public right-of-way

Where can I learn more?

Be sure to explore the Historic Theater Grants 2023-2025 Guidelines and Procedures document for more information about the application process. You can also watch the online version of our 2019-2021 grant workshop for information about the grants and a walkthrough of the application.

We will also be hosting Office Hours via Zoom for interested parties to drop in to ask questions about the grant program or about a specific project. There will be two Office Hours sessions: Wednesday, September 20 from 5:00-6:30 pm, and Wednesday, October 11 from 5:00-6:30 pm. Attendance is free, but registration is required.

For more assistance, please contact gr****@pr********.org.