Behind the glass doors and past the Italian marble floored lobby, renovations on the Strand Theater are rapidly approaching the finish line.
With its $3.6 million renovation 90 percent complete, the Strand will soon be back to its 1924 gilded glory. Only a few finishing touches, and a few more dollars, remain before the grand re-opening next spring.
“We got a grant; if we raised $75,000 they would give us $75,000, and we did,” said Shawna Armstrong, gallery curator and marketing coordinator at the NCCCA Art Center, which oversees the Strand. “We’re just waiting for the construction companies to put in their bids (for the final work).”
With a dedicated cadre of volunteers and staff working from a limited number of pictures from that period, the Strand’s restoration will be historically accurate, with a few exceptions to comply with modern day fire and safety codes. Gone, for instance, will be the standing room area in the back of the lobby. Nearly 100 seats were also lost to the placement of heat, air conditioning and sound systems in the now wider walls, and the fact that modern day seats are wider than they were in 1924.
The new Strand will seat just under 500 people downstairs, and another 450 upstairs.
The massive Swarovski crystal chandelier, which was donated by Schonbek and hung recently, was re-created without benefit of any photographs. It was constructed from a description found in a local paper from that time period. A massive pipe organ, one of only 160 like it in the world, is currently in Boston being refurbished. One patron alone donated nearly $200,000 to refurbish the organ.
The original paint on the theater walls was foound to be intact, and hand sculpted accents in the lobby are being painted to match. In fact, the entire paint scheme will be accurate to 1924. If the original silver paint in the theater section had been painted over through the years, Armstrong said, the project would have taken another full year to complete.
There are however drawbacks to a historically accurate building.
“The problem with the Strand is, because we kept the original historical design, there’s not a lot of storage. A lot of amenities that people are used to, we don’t have. We only have four bathrooms with three stalls each for 1,000 people. Unfortunately that’s part of the deal,” said Armstrong, adding: “We only have one broom closet.”
While not yet 100 percent done, the Strand is up and running with a slate of upcoming shows. Bluesman Johnny Rawls will be playing the Strand Aug. 16, and numerous other events are slated for the fall. A calendar of upcoming events can be found on the NCCCA Art Center website at plattsburgharts.org. The revamped Strand will include performing arts, and a name change to the Strand Center for the Arts, which will include the Arts Education Center, will be made soon.
Another successful fundraiser has patrons purchasing their own seat at the Strand, and they will be given advanced opportunities to purchase tickets for upcoming shows. A large number of these seats have already been sold.
An intern will be starting in the fall, and will be posting pictures of the past and present, on the theater’s Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/Strand.Plattsburgh.