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Dumpster Diving For Lakewood Theater History

Update: Fans of Lakewood Theater descended on a dumpster outside the iconic movie house Thursday to rescue antique seats, trashed to give crews more room to get rid of asbestos inside. Now, the head of the Dallas Landmark Commission says the site will be considered for historic landmark designation.

As people went dumpster diving for the trashed theater seats, Katherine Seale got dozens of angry calls, texts and emails.

She’s chairman of the Dallas Landmark Commission and she’s looking into historic designation. She stresses that’s just one possibility.

“There’s always a lot of excitement when you initiate a building and it doesn’t come from the owner. But really, we’re just tapping the brakes here," she says. "We’re just having a conversation about the building and we’ll go from there.”

Seale says now that an official letter has been sent to city preservation staff, no major construction permits can be issued for the Lakewood Theater until a public hearing is held.

That includes demolition permits.

Theater co-owner Craig Kinney says razing the building is not part of his plans.

“There would never be a demolition of the Lakewood Theater property," he says. "It’s a Dallas icon and one of the reasons we bought the property, it’s a big advantage to us.”

Kinney says he’s trying to find a buyer to take over the theater space. The public hearing on landmark designation is set for September 8th

The Original Post: North Texans crowding the parking lot were thrilled to haul away a little piece of history, but not happy they had to dumpster dive for it.

People at the Lakewood Shopping Center tend to congregate at The Gingerman, or maybe Dixie House.

Thursday afternoon, the hotspot was a giant dumpster outside the Lakewood Theater which opened in the 1930s.

The dumpster was filled to brimming with antique Lakewood Theater seats. Soni McKnight was among the treasure seekers.

“Dallas has no sense of history, they just throw away anything that’s slightly tarnished," she says.

She snagged a few seats for herself in what was a pretty organized scene. Two guys were the designated dumpster diggers, and they handed down chairs and brackets to the eager folks below. Danielle Weadon showed up with her husband and daughter.

“This is a theater and my friend, he was the manager of it, and my grandfather built this city and it means a lot to me, and I wanted a piece of it," says Weadon.

She says her grandfather built hundreds of homes in Lakewood ad Lake Highlands and she just couldn’t stomach the site of all those iconic seats in the garbage pile.

“I’m going to put them in my home," says Weadon. "And display them.”

Lakewood Theater co-owner Craig Kinney says the seats were tossed because contractors needed them cleared out to remove asbestos.

Kinney’s still trying to find a theater to buy the Lakewood space. If he can’t it will likely be carved up into restaurants and shops.

He says he looked into selling the theater chairs, but they didn’t appear to be worth much.

“If we thought we could sell them for value, we would have," Kinney says. "We found no interest with re-sellers. I mean I guess we could have tried to sell them to the public, I don’t know. It was our understanding there wasn’t any value in the chairs.”

The crowd at the Lakewood Theater definitely felt differently. They hung around the dumpster, hauling away seats that were bent or broken, until workers shut the operation down around 3 p.m.

Robin Wheadon says she remembers when the Lakewood Theater was still a place to see movies.

“I went to this theater a lot for Rocky Horror with my friends," she says. "And it's sad seeing them in the dumpster because they’re stacked on top of each other getting crushed and bent so we have to actually fix them now.”

For the Weadons, at least, it’s worth it to keep a bit of Lakewood history alive.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.