Work to restore the Brick District Playhouse auditorium has started, according to Tom Riley, president of the board of directors.
"We are able to tackle the interior sooner than we had planned because the fundraising was accomplished so quickly," Riley added.
On Wednesday, GloveCon employees Josh Glover, Dave Luebbert and Dale Hentige erected a scaffold on the stage, preparing for a big job. Some original details will stay, including decorative plaster ringing the stage opening, and ceiling soffits designed for sound quality.
"It's kind of neat to leave aspects of the building alone instead of tearing it out," Glover said. "I think it will be so cool to get this (restoration) going for the community."
Members of the Brick District Playhouse Board of Directors received tax credits from the state of Missouri to facilitate charitable contributions, and was granted the standard period of three years to use them. However, board members were able to reach their initial fundraising goal in a little over a year.
"It's overwhelming to see that amount of support," said Bruce Hackmann, co-fundraising chair. "As usual, our community has stepped up to tackle an important project that otherwise would never have been done."
Exterior renovations were completed in 2016, he said. Late last year, board members engaged architects and engineers to develop the extensive plans for not just renovation, but entirely new HVAC and other systems. Phil Glenn is another board member whose family built the theatre in the 1920s.
"The theater's age and the lack of repairs over the past few decades meant that we basically had to start from scratch to bring the building up to code," he said.
Plans allow for construction to be accomplished in stages including new systems and improvements to make the auditorium functional; additional upgrades to the lighting, sound system and balcony; and final additions of dressing rooms and other amenities.
Glenn, who leads the Playhouse's construction efforts, met with dozens of contractors to tour the site, determine requirements and solicit bids. This process took months, but board members estimate it has saved tens of thousands of dollars through donated labor and reduced costs. In addition to the work of the all-volunteer board, Architects Alliance, engineer Fred Malicoat, P&L Electric and GloveCon all donated some of their time or provided services at significantly discounted rates.
"I think people recognize the amount of volunteer time that is required for a project like this and they're kind enough to help because they know it's important," Glenn said.
The City of Fulton has also continued to provide invaluable support, with Board Member Gayla Dunn securing a grant for the HVAC system.
Starting Wednesday, GloveCon began installing scaffolding, constructing walkways and clearing the attic. Foam insulation will be added before the fire suppression system is installed. While this work is performed, the board will be sending engineering plans and bid packets for the HVAC system so that the heating and cooling systems can be added as soon as the sprinklers are in place.
If work continues to go as planned, the Playhouse should receive an occupancy permit, and events can begin to be offered on the nearly 100-year-old stage well before the end of this year.
County Tourism Director Renee Graham, who had previously worked on the Missouri Theatre and now chairs the Playhouse Events Committee, said, "We think it's important to have concerts, plays, and other events as soon as possible so both performers and the audience can see the work we've already done as well as the potential of this space. The theater is unique and possibilities for events that will benefit our community and bring in tourism is almost endless."
Once the theater is functional, board members will begin work on the final stages of improvements: Renovating the balcony, upgrading the lighting and sound-systems, and possibly dressing rooms and other improvements that would allow the theater to host larger performances or even film festivals.
"While this is obviously a long-term project, we know we'll be on the downhill slope once we've renovated the stage and auditorium so we can begin to use the space," Riley said. "And with all the community support, we're getting there faster than we'd planned."