LEWISTOWN - For the past 10 years the Embassy Theatre in Lewistown has sat unchanged, but now, Friends of the Embassy are ready to move forward and continue work on the building.
Financing has come through and phase one of the restoration process will begin by mid-October, said Paul Fagley, Friends president.
"Phase one involves updating the outside of the building and making sure that everything is structurally sound," Fagley said. "Since the front of the building was finished a number of years ago, we'll be repairing the side and rear walls. We'll also be adding new fire exits and a new roof membrane."
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Paul Fagley discusses design choices for the restored seating, based off an actual Embassy seat, pictured right. Because the modern seats are wider and provide more leg room, the theater will have less seating than when it opened in 1927.
The project is being funded by the Save America's Treasures federal grant and the Keystone Historic Preservation state grant. The grants total roughly $333,000 and $174,000 will go toward work on the outside walls.
"The grants are considered reimbursement funding, meaning we only get the grant money once we spend an equal amount of our own money," Fagley said. "Since it has taken so long to match the amounts through fundraising, we decided to get a loan so work on the Embassy can continue. We are signing paperwork by the end of this month."
Though this part of the process isn't very glamorous, it needs to be done, Fagley said. There's no use putting money inside the building as long as there is water infiltration from cracks and missing mortar, Fagley said. Construction is expected to take three weeks, he added.
Phase two will then begin, which involves the creation of an architectural master plan. Westlake Reed Leskosky, an architectural firm that specializes in historic preservation and restoration, has been tentatively chosen to create the final plan, Fagley said.
"Our goal is to raise $25,000 by the end of the year to pay for the architectural master plan," Fagley said. "While we work on that, the firm will have various specialists visit the theater to create the final blueprint. If everything goes as I hope, we will hold a public meeting, with the plan on display in March 2013."
The Friends of the Embassy will then kick off a capital campaign to match the remaining $159,000 of grant money, Fagley said. At that point, the grant money and any funds raised will go toward restoring the inside of the theater and getting a limited occupancy permit, he said.
"Once we get the permit, we will enter, what I like to call, the lawn chair phase," Fagley said. "We will be able to screen movies once or twice a month, but people will bring their own chairs. The idea is to get the community back inside the building so they get excited about the project again."
Though the lawn chair phase means the building is structurally sound, it doesn't mean the paint, floors, carpeting or balcony will be done, Fagley said. The theater will most likely be open for a year in this phase, then, assuming the funds have come in, the theater will be closed for a year or two to finish the restoration process, he said.
"It usually takes an average of 25 years to completely restore a historical theater," Fagley said. "With that understanding, we are doing very well. If everything goes according to plan, the Embassy Theatre should be reopened, in its full glory, by 2018."