Work is underway at the Carlisle Regional Performing Arts Center in downtown Carlisle to make sure it stands well into the future, but it’s work that most people won’t see or notice.
Rick Rovegno, a member of the theater’s board of directors whose company is overseeing the work, said workers are securing the exterior and the structure of the building.
The skeleton of the theater, built in 1939, is a series of steel columns that are aligned on opposite sides of the building. The columns support bowstring trusses that form the superstructure of the theater’s roof and ceiling of the auditorium, Rovengo said.
Carlisle Regional Performing Arts Center is looking for a new executive director.
The steel structure expands and contracts, causing the pilasters, which surround the steel to protect it from the weather, to crack, which in turn allows water to get into the building and against steel.
“Buildings are constantly moving. It’s just that it’s so slow you can’t see it,” he said.
Rovegno said workers will demolish and rebuild all of the pilasters on the western side of the building as well as the top of the chimney. The rebuilt pilasters will include an expansion joint made of a rubbery material that flexes to accommodate expansions and contractions of the steel structure.
New brick will be used to rebuild the pilasters and the chimney, but no work is being done on the remaining masonry, which Rovegno said has stood up well over time.
The marquee of the Carlisle Theatre is likely going to look a little darker over the next few months.
“That’s 80 years old. It’s in really great shape,” he said. “It was opened in 1939 so it was really well built.”
The masonry cap on the top of the chimney will be replaced with stainless steel. Coping stones and copper caps at the top of the pilasters will keep water from getting into the masonry from the top.
The work is being done by Houck Masonry of Harrisburg.
Workers will paint a white silicone coating on the black rubber roof to extend the life of the roof as well. The coating helps to lower the building’s temperature and is environmentally friendly. Because it goes on in liquid form, there are no seams that could potentially allow water to seep in.
Workers are on the job Monday through Thursday, and clean up every day, Rovegno said. The borough worked with the people who rent parking spaces in the surface parking lot on Pomfret Street to free up three spaces so Houck’s equipment can be moved for weekend events at the theater.
In the 2016 fiscal year, the Carlisle Theatre was looking at a potential, significant loss in net assets.
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Rovegno said the project will cost about $60,000 and is being funded, in part, from the May gala to celebrate the theater’s 80th anniversary, which raised more than $120,000. It is expected to take four to five weeks to finish, depending on the weather.
“When we’re done with this project and the roof, the entire building will be in good shape. The exterior of the entire building will be in good shape with the exception of the tile work on the front of the building,” Rovegno said.
The facade of the building extends above the roof line forming a parapet. That area is affected by the weather from both sides, causing the tile to flake off.
“If you look, there’s almost like a defined line where you can see tile has flaked off. But, below the roof line where it’s secured on the back side, there’s no deterioration,” Rovegno said.
The tiles will need to be replaced, but that is a different project for a later date.
“That will be a massive project,” said Esch McCombie, president of the theater’s board of directors.
A project to replace the stucco tiles will require longer term planning and a coordinated fundraising effort that includes not only local donors but also foundations benefiting the arts and historic buildings and government funding from the local, state and federal levels, he said.
“Once completed, the new glazed tile panels and the already updated and enhanced marquee will really make the theater shine. We are very excited to tackle that project in the next few years and already have begun laying the groundwork for it,” McCombie said.
Once that’s finished, the theater will be secure save for routine maintenance such as re-coating the roof every 10-12 years or repairs on the HVAC system.
“There’s no reason this building can’t stand for centuries,” Rovengo said.
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McCombie acknowledged that the theater takes a lot of work and money to keep it running, but the project undertaken this week and some other upcoming projects should protect the building and all that is inside it for decades.
“With the exterior being secure, in the short-term we will turn our attention to some ‘fun’ interior projects and programming enhancements,” he said.