Originally Published: April 12, 2014 6 a.m.
PRESCOTT, Arizona - About two and a half months after workers covered the exterior of the Elks Opera House with plastic sheeting to allow for restoration work, they are getting ready to reveal the results.
Allan Crary, project manager for the contractor Haley Construction Co., reported Friday that the extensive restoration of the exterior brick and mortar on the historic downtown building is wrapping up.
Since late January, plastic sheeting has covered the network of scaffolding that was necessary for the brick replacement work.
Crary expects all of the scaffolding and sheeting to come down by the week of April 21.
The unveiling will reveal the newly re-stored brick, as well as the new two-tone cool-gray/pewter-gray paint - a color scheme that Crary said "looks clean, but still looks like an old building."
The darker gray color serves to highlight the newly restored architectural features such as the corbels and pilasters. Crary noted that much of the corbel work had been crumbling away, but was replaced during the project.
The exterior work is just a part of the restoration project that the building's new owners, the Elks Theater Performing Arts Center, undertook this past fall.
The first step focused on rear walls of the building. By early 2014, the work had moved to the portion of the building that fronts Gurley Street, and the scaffolding and plastic sheeting has since obscured the street-side of the building.
Under the sheeting, Haley crewmembers have been meticulously removing the bricks that were too damaged to repair, and replacing them with a comparable product.
On the east wall, for instance, Crary estimates that about 90 percent of the brick had to be replaced.
The sheeting was necessary for a number of reasons, including safety and warmth. It helped to keep the mortar from freezing during the cold winter weather, and also served as a barrier for any material that fell to the ground during the work.
Project architect Frank DeGrazia earlier explained that the joints between the old bricks had deteriorated, creating a shelf for water and ice. Compounding the problem was a stucco-like coating that was sprayed on portions of the brick decades ago, adhering to the brick and allowing even more water to be trapped.
Crary said workers stripped much of the old stucco and replaced it with a synthetic stucco, blending the new texture with the old.
Along with restoring the brick, the first phase included replacement of the building's windows with energy-efficient double-glazed glass.
Haley Construction also is working on the inside, renovating the space previously occupied by attorneys' offices and storefronts.
Upstairs in the second and third levels, Crary and Haley's business and development coordinator Gillian Haley showed the space that has been revealed through interior demolition work.
For example, they pointed out the barrel ceilings that were revealed on the third floor, under layers of acoustical dropped ceilings.
Because the 1905-era building has served different purposes through the years, Haley said, previous occupants molded the walls and ceilings to meet their needs. "The desirable architectural elements just continued to get covered over," she said.
Although planning is still in the works, Haley and Crary said the high, curved ceiling could end up being covered once again with tin tiles, similar to the traces of original tin still visible in places.
The non-profit Elks Theater Performing Arts Center bought the theater from the City of Prescott in 2012, with the intention of converting the building into a center for the performing arts, with studios for dance, music, and recording.
As a part of the purchase, the organization agreed to set up an endowment for the perpetual operation and maintenance of the theater.
Meanwhile, events continue to take place in the theater space, which got a complete renovation in 2009 and 2010, and is not being affected by the current restoration.
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