When the Strand Theatre Preservation Society took ownership of the building in December of 2000, the building had suffered from years of neglect. The building had sat empty for over four years. The main functional problem with the structure was a substantial hole in the roof. The hole was apparently created by a 5 gallon pail that broke through the roof. It then fell through the attic and created a larger hole in the ceiling. This “opening to the sky” allowed all the rain and snow that fell on the roof to funnel down through the roof, through the ceiling and into the auditorium. Over the years, the water caused significant damage to the ceiling as well as the main floor seating and floor of the auditorium.
So the first task was to repair the roof and re-point the exterior bricks as needed. The hole was repaired, and the roof surface was re-done. The roof / exterior wall junction was re-sealed and the roof drainage systems (gutters) were re-worked. The decorative trim on the exterior of the building was all cleaned and re-painted. During this initial portion of the project, the exterior doors were renovated as well.
Next, the Heating /Air Conditioning system was replaced. The old system made use of an under the floor duct system for heating, and two large “box-seat” air handlers to provide A/C. This old system was replaced with a roof mounted ventilation system. The auditorium heating and A/C is delivered via this new ventilation system. The stage area has a separate HVAC with all new ducting as well. To complete the new climate control system required the replacement and upgrade of the electrical supply to the building. In order to make the building more energy efficient, we had a contractor insulate the ceiling as well as the auditorium floor.
There are now four separate heating zones in the building – 1- the outer lobby, 2 – the inner lobby, 3 – main auditorium area, 4 – the stage, and 5 – the balcony . Money spent to bring the building to this state was over $1,000,000.
At this point (early 2009) , the exterior of the building was secured, the climate control and electrical systems were modernized. We then turned the focus of work to the interior of the building. This includes the stage, the auditorium, the basement/dressing area, entrance/concession area as well as the balcony, projection, old-restroom, and office area. There was also renovation/clean-up needed in the basement area under the entrance area of the theatre.
Each of these areas needed to have fire detection equipment installed as well as re-wiring of the lighting systems. The main auditorium chandeliers and sconces were all cleaned and re-wired. The chandeliers needed to have their lowering winches re-done. The foot lights and overhead light bars on the stage were all re-wired and tied back to a new power distribution panel.
During the interior clean-up of the building, all of the seats on the main floor were removed from the theatre and discarded. The clutter from the attic area, the dressing rooms, concession area, front basement, stage, projection room, restrooms, and the seating area needed to be thrown out as well. The overall clean-up effort was extensive and mostly carried out by volunteers. We added two restrooms to the auditorium area and a handicap accessible restroom in the lobby area. These restrooms needed new water supplies and sewage lines plumbed in. Additionally, the new concession area needed a new three tub sink as well as a hand wash sink to meet Health Department Codes.
The interior of the theatre (ceiling, walls & floor) all needed to be taken care of. Scaffolding was built to access the entire ceiling area of the theatre as well as the walls. The intent was to repair the loose plaster on the ceiling, but in the end, due to the condition of the old plaster, our contractor replaced all the plaster on the ceiling with drywall. First, the entire ceiling including the proscenium arch was stripped down of all plaster. Then the contractor hung new drywall along the entire ceiling and followed that with a prime coat and finish coat of paint. Concurrently, volunteers were using the scaffolding to clean and paint the walls of the theatre. Volunteers also cleaned and painted all the trim around proscenium arch.
Before we could offer any public events in the theatre, volunteers laid a new OSB subfloor across over the first floor as well as the stage floor. The floor was painted too. This gave a smooth floor surface that can now be covered in carpeting, tile, or any other covering of our choice. The projection screen was needed to allow us to show movies at the theatre. In order to use the screen, the existing counterweight system needed to be de-commissioned and the hoist system was re-strung. After several months of occasional movies, the hoisting system was modified to allow the screen to be raised/lowered via a “boat winch”. This allows the screen to be positioned much more easily.
The new restrooms required some of the seating area to be given up, but we now have modern, comfortable restrooms on the first floor. The handicapped accessible restroom is in the lobby area and helps us with complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Along the same line, we have recently installed a wheelchair lift to allow for access to the stage.
We have renovated the balcony by eliminating one-half of the seats (every other row). This gives the audience much more legroom than was available with the 1920’s seating arrangement.
The lobby renovations include an upgrade to our concession area – we have equipment for popcorn, hot dogs, coffee, cold drinks, nachos, and a new oak candy counter. We also have a new ticket booth. It is a similar style as the candy counter.
At this point (Fall 2014) – we still need to complete the balcony level common room as well as the 2nd floor restrooms. Theses restrooms do have rough plumbing – but the walls and fixture installation still needs to be carried out. The old balcony restrooms have been torn out to allow the floor space to be better used. We now need to equip the projection room with a new projection system. House light controls also need to be established. Stage lighting systems need to be designed, purchased and installed. We still need to complete the dressing rooms; right now the basement area has been cleared out, but the dressing rooms are not ready for use.
We have recently purchased new seating for the auditorium floor. The chairs we had been using were owned by our “Sunday tenant”, the Experience. Lastly, the sound equipment we are using was also their property. Therefore, we need to purchase a permanent sound system which includes speakers, microphones, an amplifier system, and a sound board.
In early 2014, in addition to the winter turning very cold, we determined that we had a collapsed sewer main. The line that connects the building drains to the city sewer system was plugged off. Drains were running very slow, and an extensive re-routing of interior sewer lines was carried out. This new line allowed a new sewer connection to be made to the 5th Street sewer main. In the process of making the connection to the city sewer, a major leak in the gas main to the building was found. This required the gas to be turned off for about 15 days. During this time, the weather was very COLD. There were several days with high temperatures of 10 degrees or less and during a stretch the temperature never broke 25 degrees. The building was without central heat during this time, and even though the drains were now repaired, we still could not turn on the water to the building – now to prevent freezing. Although the water was off to the building we still had a frozen water line that needed to be repaired.
During summer 2014, we purchased, installed and wired 24 LED stage lights. It is the start of a stage lighting system. Overall, to date, we have invested $1,600,000 in the effort to restore The Strand. To complete the restoration effort, we still need over $500,000.
Work started in the second floor meeting area and restrooms in Fall 2014. The heating and drywall was completed along with painting the area. During 2015 - the second floor restrooms were completed as well as the plumbing for the wet bar area of this meeting area. The second floor reception area was made generally available by the end of 2015. This renovation included making the second level handicap accessible by installing a stair-lift. We have a separate HVAC system for the reception area as well.
During the year 2015 – we received a donation of a 7ft grand piano. It has been a great addition to our stage. We also were able to acquire a theatre organ. It has been featured in several silent movie weekends we have held. Both of these instruments add to the theatre’s uniqueness.
Currently, we are adding shelving to help us organize the lumber storage room in the basement.
Ongoing efforts at this time include – an improved projection system, providing plumbing and furnishings for the dressing rooms. We also want to provide for a green room space in the old furnace room area of the basement.