Auction postponed for Middletown’s Wayside Theatre

A car travels past the Wayside Theater in Middletown on Tuesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER — Concerned individuals came to the Tuesday afternoon auction for the Wayside Theatre only to find that it had been postponed.

Substitute trustee Thomas Murphy announced to those gathered outside the Frederick County Circuit Court in Winchester that BB&T had contacted him about a half hour before auction time and had decided to postpone the auction.

Having driven from Arlington, he remained outside the courthouse to inform possible bidders of the change, but said no one approached him with interest. Although his contact information was listed in the sale notice, he said no one had previously contacted him inquiring about the property, either. He did not announce a future date for the auction.

The terms of sale in the notice stated the bidder would have to pay $55,000 to the substitute trustee at the sale and pay the balance within 30 days of the sale. The 11,853 square foot property would have been sold “as is.”

Among those at the would-be auction — most of them just waiting to watch the auction and see a who the new owner would be — were former theater president Byron Brill, theater board members Barbara Scarlett and Stephanie Pendleton, and Betty Orndoff, who performed in multiple shows at the theater.

Brill, who became president in January 2013 and announced the theater was closing that summer, first saw the notice on June 30.

The theater held its last performance on Aug. 9, 2013, even after it had successfully raised $90,000 for an emergency fund before April. Despite that success, Wayside closed before its promised 2013-14 season ended. According to Brill, August is a particularly difficult month in terms of ticket sales, and the board was faced with having two casts on payroll at once between shows.

At the time, Brill said in a news release that a lack of support and insufficient ticket sales contributed to the closure. Wayside Foundation for the Arts, which never officially terminated, donated theater memorabilia to Handley Regional Library’s Stewart Bell Jr. Archives Room after the closure.

“We went to extreme care to really try to be good stewards of what was there,” Brill said.

Middletown Mayor Charles Harbaugh said that many want to see Wayside restored to its former glory.

“No matter what somebody wanted to put there, we hope that the owner has a good relationship with the town,” he said. “We’re interested to see what the new owner’s fingerprint on the property is going to be.”

Theater board member Stephanie Pendleton said she would like to see the facility used as a movie theater, as it was originally built as a cinema around the early 1940s. Orndoff said she’d like it to become a children’s theatre.

Just down Main Street from the theater, historic Wayside Inn has also gone on the market.

Wayside Inn owners George and Becky Reeves put Wayside Inn up for sale in June. Becky Reeves said in an interview that the inn’s clientele diminished once the theater closed. Banker and philanthropist Leo Bernstein once owned both the inn and the theater.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com