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Roof of historic Mathews County theater collapses during storm

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Posted at 11:58 AM, Jan 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-23 19:33:56-05

Hudgins, Va. – The roof and some walls of a historic theater in Mathews County collapsed Friday night during the winter storm that was moving through the area.

Donk’s Theater opened in 1947 as a cinema. In 1975, it became a country music theatre and now calls itself the home of “Virginia’s Lil’ Ol Opry.”

According to Mathews County building official Jamie Wilks, the cause of the collapse was snow and ice accumulation, along with the age of the building.

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Authorities received calls reporting the collapse around 11:00 p.m. Friday night. They arrived to find that the entire roof had collapsed, along with some of the walls.

“It was the accumulation of the snow which turned to ice and then the heavy downpours of rain, where the water could not get off that roof,” says Betsy Ripley, who handles public relations for the theatre. “We had terrible wind gusts which kind of shook it to its core.”

The building is a total loss.

Ripley and her cousin, Lynda Smith, say the support from the community, especially through social media, has been overwhelming.

“It’s the house that built me and it built a lot of other people too, we’re gonna miss it, it’s like a death in the family,” says Smith, Talent Production Manager. “It’s bricks and mortar and it can come back.”

The Post Office located next door is temporarily closed as a precaution. It is expected to remain closed for several days.

Ripley and Smith tell NewsChannel 3 the owner of the building has not made a decision about rebuilding yet, however, she does want to preserve as much of the building that she can. 

More updates will be posted as they become available.