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Capitol Theatre ceiling to be replaced

June 16, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The auditorium ceiling of the Capitol Theatre, part of which collapsed during an April performance, will be replaced as part of a project costing $315,000, according to an announcement Wednesday by Paul Cullinane, president of Downtown Chambersburg Inc.

"The final decision of the Downtown Chambersburg Inc. Board of Directors is to replace the main auditorium ceiling with a new ceiling of lighter and durable materials," Cullinane said during a press conference. He said the material, called "blue board," is similar to gypsum dry wall and will be covered with a plaster veneer.

"I'll bet you the ceiling up there now weighs about 10 pounds per square foot," said Steven Powers, the director of sales for Novinger's Inc., the Middletown, Pa., company that will replace the ceiling. He said the new ceiling will weigh about half as much.

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Powers said Novinger's experience in restoration includes the State Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pa., where the company worked on the addition of the east wing years ago and continues to do plaster restoration.

A section of the ceiling fell during an April 30 performance of "A Salute to Education" by the Chambersburg Community Theatre. Several people were injured by the falling panel, including one woman who was hospitalized at York (Pa.) Hospital for about three weeks. The theater has been closed since then, with scheduled shows being moved to other venues.

Cullinane said Wednesday that structural engineers were unable to determine why the one section of ceiling, which was fastened with nails and original to the 78-year-old theater, gave way. The ceiling supports, however, have been determined to be structurally sound, he said.

In addition to replacing more than 5,000 square feet of ceiling in the auditorium, Cullinane said ceilings under and over the balcony and mezzanine will be inspected and reinforced with metal fasteners, which then will be skim-coated with a plaster veneer. Walls also will be inspected and restored as necessary, he said.

Cullinane said the scaffolding for the plasterers will begin to be set up this week. The scaffolding will be topped by a "dance floor" about seven feet below the ceiling. The job will take three to four months to complete and inspections will take place throughout the process, he said.

A painting contractor has not been selected, he said.

"This theater will not reopen until unless we have achieved total confidence that it is determined to be safe for public use and enjoyment," Cullinane said. The decision to replace, rather than repair, the auditorium ceiling was "the best solution to achieve the community's confidence that we have done everything that needs to be done" for safety, he said.

Before the ceiling section fell, Cullinane said the construction debt for the theater was $550,000. The $315,000 for the ceiling replacement and repair increases that figure to $865,000, but the Capitol Theatre Endowment Fund received a final gift of $250,000 from a frequent benefactor, Cora I. Grove, who died June 4.

Cullinane said the gift is specifically for the ceiling restoration.

That leaves the theater with $615,000 to raise to retire the construction debt.

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