02/20/05 — Three-story structure built by Weil family in 1882

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Three-story structure built by Weil family in 1882

By Winkie Lee
Published in News on February 20, 2005 2:10 AM

Built by the Weil family in 1882, the Paramount Theater began its existence as The Armory Building.

At three stories high, it was the tallest building downtown and, for years, was the location of many businesses.

The home guard practiced drills on the third floor, and, from 1883 until 1886, Temple Oheb Shalom's congregation used part of the building as a synagogue.

The building became a location for entertainment in the 1920s, when a back part was built, named the Mason Theater, and used as a vaudeville and movie house, says Emily Weil.

The name Paramount began being used several years later.

For many years the Paramount was the top motion picture theater in Wayne County.

The building closed in the mid-80s, but by 1991 many people in the community began work to re-open the Paramount.

Henry Weil, who was president of the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp., was among the people who began an effort to renovate and reopen the theater.

Tim Bartlett and Emily Weil, assisted by a committee, began a fund-raising drive, and community volunteers joined together to clean the building.

Dick Moffatt, Hal Tanner Sr., Demming Smith and Ollie Toomey helped select a group of people to approach for support, both monetarily and in volunteer work. Also instrumental were Bob Logan, Grimsley Hobbs and Charlie Gaylor.

Once the building had been cleaned, a party was held. Chairs were set out and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base pumped in air conditioning. Those who attended learned about plans for the building.

In 1991 and 1992, Lee Brown directed productions, illuminated by borrowed lights, and played to audiences who sat in borrowed seats.

Support for the theater was strong. Because of how many things were donated, renovations cost about half a million dollars, Mrs. Weil says. "If we had had to do it as most communities do, it would have cost more than a million."

In 1993, the theater was deeded to the city.

It has been heavily booked since it re-opened, says Neil Bartlett, Goldsboro Recreation and Parks director.

The Paramount has held a special place in many people's hearts, Mrs. Weil says.

"You'd be surprised how many people told me, 'My husband proposed to me there,' or 'I went on my first date there.'"

Johnny Grant, who would later become the honorary mayor of Hollywood, told Mrs. Weil that he decided to go to Hollywood while watching a movie at the theater.

Mrs. Weil says she is heartbroken about what has happened to the Paramount "because I really think the community wanted it, loved it and has enjoyed the benefits of many concerts and plays in a setting that is comfortable and familiar to them from their childhood."

Some of this story's information came from the publication "An Architectural Inventory: Goldsboro, North Carolina" prepared by Barbara Hammond and the city of Goldsboro and published in 1987.