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Oxford Eagle Article on The Lyric

May 9, 2008
So the long awaited rumor of the Lyric is finally starting to get a little closer to the truth. Sue Mills wrote a great little piece on the restoration and plans. It’s about time we have an indy place!
Read on below:

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5/8/08 – Restoration of Lyric nears completion

Staff Writer

For more than a year, Bradley Bishop has worked on his dream of revitalizing the place where many in Oxford watched their first movie — the Lyric Theater.

When Bishop’s father, Watt Bishop, bought the building at 1006 Van Buren Ave. in 1983, it was just a shell. He finished it out as a place for his dental practice. Eventually a dance studio and a copy business were housed in the building. He also lived in an apartment created in the building at one time and the local restaurant, Two Stick, even called it home.

“He had this utopic vision of turning it into a health center,” Bishop said of his father’s plans for the building.

Now the younger Bishop is trying to work out his own utopic vision for the structure.
From the 1920s to the 1960s, the building housed the Lyric movie theater. The theater was popular with moviegoers for about four decades as it screened the latest Hollywood blockbusters. It even hosted the world premier of the film version of William Faulkner’s novel, “Intruder in the Dust,” which was filmed in the community.

Bishop hopes to return the building to its former glory by transforming the space into a venue for music concerts and screenings of independent films.

“Wilco played here two years ago at the Ford Center and they sold out quick,” Bishop said. “We don’t have a proper music venue that can handle national acts and we lost where to show movies on the Square. So I thought Oxford could handle something like this, and it is a gamble I’m taking.”

Along with Tim Sims, an old college buddy, Bishop took on the challenge to prevent his father from selling the building.

“I’m really proud of my dad because he could have sold it and someone could have put condos or whatever there,” Bishop said.

Bishop and Sims hired Kyle Pilgrim to promote the new venue — dubbed The Lyric Oxford — around the country. The placed will hold as many as 1,500 people.

“He’s gone to Nashville, New York and Los Angeles,” Bishop said. “The biggest surprise is that most people already know Oxford.

“This is an economically viable project and something to add to the culture of Oxford and the Square. I want it to be a cultural hub for the region and even for the state.”

The Lyric Oxford will have a catering kitchen and a bar as well as cozy green rooms for the talent. However, Bishop said, he doesn’t want the venue to be considered just another bar in town.

Instead he wants The Lyric Oxford to be a part of the community, a facility able to host benefits, weddings and fundraisers.

Restoring history

One of the biggest benefits Bishop sees is that a piece of Oxford’s history has been restored. Before coming back home to Oxford, Bishop was working on a graduate degree in architecture and living in New York after earning a degree in history at Vanderbilt University.

“Part of the appeal was the history, architecture and design,” Bishop said. “It was breathing new life into the building.”

Even though Bishop did a lot of the architecture work himself, he also hired Architecture Inc. of Memphis, Tenn., to oversee the project.

“We left very, very little of the inside,” Ken Hudson, lead architect, said. “We pretty much undid everything that had been in place before.”

The company’s specialty is renovating buildings — especially those considered historic.

“It’s becoming the ‘green’ thing to do,” said David Schuermann of Architecture Inc. “Renovating old buildings to new uses is becoming very popular, especially in a close-knit downtown area where it is better to keep the feel intact than tear down the building.”

Hudson said The Lyric is a perfect example of how a historic building can be given a new lease on life by restoring it for a more contemporary use.

“Oxford’s downtown area can certainly sustain a venue like that,” Hudson said. “We’ve tried hard to keep the old intact, but to include the new.”

Hudson is about to get his chance to see the final product since Bishop said plans are to have the renovations complete by June. On Tuesday he got the final approval from the Oxford Board of Aldermen on the project.

Bishop was granted city right-of-way for his stairs in front of the building as long as he either places planters or stains the stairs to distinguish them from the sidewalk.

Plans are also to place a marquee in front of the building to replace the current awning to truly restore the building to its former glory as a theater. Bishop is working on the possibility of getting a grant to help with the expense of the marquee or to host a fundraiser in the fall to celebrate the anniversary of the premier screening of “Intruder in the Dust.”

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