Rusted and at the point of disrepair, the marquee at Middletown's historic Everett Theatre is coming down tomorrow. Plans are already in place for a replacement, though, that will go up soon.
It's been 92 years since the marquee at the Everett Theatre had a facelift.
"Age has taken its toll and we'll be replacing it," the Everett's Executive Director Chris Everett said at the beginning of the week.
People in the community concerned about preservation immediately had questions about the project. Most wanted to know if it was at all possible to restore the marquee rather than replace it. But, wear and tear on the structure makes restoration impossible.
"We were initially trying to refurbish the marquee," said board member Rob Stout. Stout, who owns Alpaca Signs and Designs called in people from his industry, from construction experts to other sign companies, hoping that the structure could be saved. He learned that the marquee is actually made of five separate pieces that fit together like a jig-saw puzzle.
"You have the two sides, two corner pieces and the front panel," Stout explained. "And, each piece has its own self-contained power source. But, as difficult as that is to work around, the five pieces weren't the problem. Like most structures of the 1920's, it's metal and there's just too much rust, wear and damage."
However, the Everett's board of directors has no interest in changing the look of the marquee so the new one that will replace what is currently there has been designed to look as much like the original as possible.
"Once its back up, the only way that you're going to be able to tell that it is new is because all the bulbs will be working," Stout said. "People are actually going to be able to see what it looked like when it went up in the 1920's."
Board member Bo White said that approximately $50,000 has been budgeted for the project and that grant money and fund raising proceeds are allowing the Everett to take on the restoration process.
The generosity of the local and state community is also making the project feasible. Original estimates indicated that the project might not happen. It was just too costly. Stout stepped in and said that he would gladly donate the services of his company. He then reached out to Gordon Mariner who owns Ad-Art in Georgetown and Gene Kirwin who owns Champs General Contracting in Middletown. Both men agreed to also donate their services, bringing the cost back down to a manageable amount.
"We're so grateful to them," Stout said. "It's one thing for me. I'm on the board and I expect that from myself. But, for the others to step in and aid the Everett in this way is just amazing. You have no idea how tickled I was when they said they'd do this, especially in this economy."
Stout said the generosity didn't stop with businesses. Town officials have been enthusiastic and supportive of the project as well.
"We went in and sat down with the mayor and they graciously offered to do anything to help us," Stout recalled. "They waived permit fees and tried to make it as easy as possible. We still had to apply for the permits but waiving the fees was such a huge relief."
The original sign will come down tomorrow and there is some concern "that it might disintegrate." Stout said that the plan in place is too get it down with as much in tact as possible in order to preserve it as a piece of history, although where it might be displayed is still up in the air. The plan will not disrupt traffic on Main Street either. Most of the work will take place right on the sidewalk.
The completion date for the new marqee is tentatively scheduled for some time in March.
"I think people are going to be pleased with the final product that they see this spring," Stout said. "The marquee is finally going to be restored to its original luster and the grandeur of it will once again be impressive. We're all really excited about it."