Work nears completion of Capitol Theatre ceiling of Capitol Theatre ceiling

September 09, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Work to replace the Capitol Theatre ceiling is entering its final weeks, but no new shows will be scheduled for the historic theater until January, according to Downtown Chambersburg Inc. President Paul Cullinane.

The 78-year-old theater has been closed since April 30 when a section of the ceiling measuring about 4 feet by 8 feet collapsed during a performance, injuring several people, one of whom was hospitalized for about three weeks with leg injuries.

The board of directors for Downtown Chambersburg Inc., which owns the theater, decided a few weeks after the accident to replace the ceiling and restore it to the way it looked when the theater opened in 1927, Cullinane said Thursday.


The scaffolding is still up and the seats below are covered in plastic sheets, but the ceiling replacement is largely done, with the old plaster ceiling panels replaced by a much lighter drywall material that has been skim-coated with plaster, Cullinane said.

The new ceiling panels also are anchored with bolts and washers every 6 inches "so it's up there to stay, forever," he said.

The ceiling replacement was done by Novinger's Inc. of Middletown, Pa., which is experienced in restoration projects such as the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg.

The painting is being done by Ringler Restoration of Greensburg, Pa., he said. Painters with that company were applying gold and mauve paint to the trim work of the ceiling and the walls are being painted in a faux marble.

The 11 1,000-watt ceiling lights also are being replaced with 28 smaller lights by Frank B. Lesher Co. Inc. of Chambersburg.

Cullinane said the prior owners of the theater supplied old photographs that are being used to recreate the 1927 paint scheme, which was painted over in the late 1940s.

Those old photos, however, are black and white and Cullinane said the old ceiling plaster was examined to find what colors were used when the auditorium ceiling was first painted.

Other than the panel that fell, Cullinane said the rest of the old ceiling was still secure. Nevertheless, it was decided to replace the ceiling at a cost of $315,000.

"It was a safety choice," he said, but also to allay any concerns among the public that another part of the ceiling might fail. Cullinane said the cause of the collapse was never determined.

The painting will be completed and the scaffolding taken down sometime in November, he said. The theater will host some receptions for the public to view the restoration, but there will be no shows until early next year.

Since the accident, theater shows have been rescheduled to Chambersburg Area Senior High School and other venues, but Cullinane said "ticket sales have not been what we hoped they'd be at the other locations."

The theater received a $250,000 bequest from the estate of the late Cora I. Grove and other smaller contributions, but Cullinane said the theater is still $52,000 short of the money needed to cover the repair bill.

The expense of the repairs is in addition to $550,000 in debt the theater already holds, he said.

Donations may be made by calling Cullinane at 717-264-7101 or Linda Boeckman at 717-263-0202.

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