MARION, Va. (WJHL) – From Main Street in downtown Marion, the Lincoln Theatre façade looks like what you would expect from any performing arts venue.

But inside, the Lincoln takes the form of a Mayan temple. It’s something you wouldn’t expect to see in a Southwest Virginia town.

Lincoln Theatre Executive Director Tracy Thompson said the theatre’s plaster hieroglyphs and massive murals transport guests and put them in a place that feels far from Marion.

“It’s all an illusion to make you feel like you’re in a Mayan temple,” Thompson said. “When you walk into this theatre, you feel that sense of joy, you feel that sense of community and you feel that sense of creativity.”

The Lincoln opened its doors in 1929. It was built by Charles Lincoln, the man responsible for another Marion icon: the General Francis Marion Hotel.

Thompson said a trip to Atlantic City gave Lincoln the idea for a grand movie house in Marion. Those productions inspired the Mayan revival styling of the Lincoln.

Now, the Lincoln is one of just three Mayan revival theatres left in the country.

Movies were the primary billing back in 1929, which allowed the theatre to keep its doors open during the Great Depression.

Cinema also provided a welcome reprieve for the townspeople during the hard economic times.

“When things are not going great in your community, you need some sort of creative release,” Thompson said. “So, people would come and go to the movies.”

Over the next 40 years, the theatre entered its golden age.

It became a concert venue as well, attracting legends of country and bluegrass music like June Carter and The Stanley Brothers.

The theatre’s success would not last, however.

Thompson said that as businesses left downtown Marion in the 60s and 70s, the theatre’s audience started to dry up.

With dwindling attendance, the theatre closed in 1977 and fell into disrepair.

Bill Huber was among the group of locals who worked starting in the late 80s to raise money to renovate the Lincoln.

Early in that process, Huber said the theatre was in shambles.

“There were trees growing inside here,” Huber said. “There were pigeons flying all over the place. You could see through the roof in many places.”

The locals formed a non-profit to guide the renovation effort. After years of hard work by dozens of volunteers, the theatre re-opened in 2004.

“There was a lot to be done, and it was a long process of building interest in the community,” Huber said.

Since then, the theatre has grown as an entertainment hub for Marion and Southwest Virginia.

Thanks to Song of the Mountains, the theatre also has a national profile.

The ongoing bluegrass concert series is performed live at the theatre and broadcast across the country on PBS.

Joe Ellis, Executive Director of Song of the Mountains, said the series shows the nation what Southwest Virginia has to offer.

“Song of the Mountains has become a really great brand for the region,” Ellis said “I think, it’s like on 190 affiliates.”

Outside of Song of the Mountains, the theatre has plenty of entertainment offerings.

Concerts, movies and free children’s programming keep Marion and the surrounding community entertained year-round.

“We are constantly adding more programming, diversifying our programming, listening to the needs of our community,” Thompson said.

You can check out what’s coming to the Lincoln Theatre on their website.