Man who saved Imperial Theatre to receive award

The man who gave Saint John's Imperial Theatre a second life will be recognized with an award Wednesday night, marking the theatre's 100th anniversary.

Jack MacDougall bought building for $1 in 1982, helped raise $1M for refurbishment

The Imperial Theatre is celebrating its 100th anniversary on Thursday. (Province of New Brunswick)

The man who helped save Saint John's Imperial Theatre is being recognized for his role with an award on Wednesday night, the eve of the theatre's 100th anniversary.

Former taxi driver Jack MacDougall bought the theatre for $1 in 1982, when it was slated for demolition and worked with the community to raise $1 million to begin returning the building to its former glory.

MacDougall says he had only visited the theatre for the first time three days before he met with the board of directors and offered to buy it, but he fell in love with it immediately.

If he had put more thought into it, he probably never would have done it, he said.

"It was really an inspiration I think just to do it," MacDougall told CBC's Information Morning Saint John.

"I was in a kind of a good space — I had a taxi business and I had sold it. I hadn't figured out what I was going to do with my time and my life quite yet, but I was working on that and once I knew I wanted to get this back into the hands of the community, I knew what my job was for the next year. That's what it was going to be."

It was a fantasy for me then that grew into a dream that has grown into a reality.- Jack MacDougall

MacDougall says it was a magical time, with more than 50,000 Saint Johners coming together.

"It was great, it was just unbelievable I can't imagine ever repeating it, but I often ache to go back to that time and say, 'Geez that was so much fun, you know?' You really felt like you were part of something," he said.

"It was a fantasy for me then that grew into a dream that has grown into a reality."

The Imperial Theatre was refurbished and reopened in 1994.