New floor installed in Augusta’s Colonial Theatre, the Beginning of Major Renovation
AUGUSTA — Visitors to the Augusta Colonial Theater can now envision themselves attending a future production in the historic building. The gaping hole in the main floor of the theater that has been there for many decades, going all the way through to the basement, has been repaired.
“We’re excited — fixing that giant hole is huge,” said Michael Hall, a member of the theater’s board of directors, and executive director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance, a group committed to revitalizing the downtown area. “We’re looking forward to people’s reactions when they can finally get in the theater and see the progress.”
“We feel this is a major milestone, all the structural issues for the building are now taken care of,” said Tobias Parkhurst, president of the theater’s board of directors. “This is the first time you can say that in 20-plus years. There’s a new roof on there. And you can’t fall through the hole in the floor anymore. That’s a critical piece of the (fundraising) campaign.”
The work on the floor, done by Winthrop-based contractor J.F. Scott Construction, was primarily funded by a $100,000 donation from Kennebec Savings Bank.
The additional work was paid for by other donations to the theater, including $60,000 from Avangrid Foundation and $15,000 from the Belvedere Historic Preservation Fund as well as $30,000 in city money Augusta city councilors voted to turn over to the theater to help keep the project moving.
Parkhurst said other improvements were also made to the areas of the building around the floor, such as removing the old furnace, since there were already workers, outfitted in gear to work amongst potential environmental hazards in the basement, so it made sense to have them do that work now, rather than have them come back to do it.
Theater advocates hope to raise $8.5 million to rehabilitate the theater. Parkhurst said so far $1.1 million has been raised. Advocates anticipate the project will also receive historic preservation tax credits worth around $2 million, as well.
Donations may be made through the Colonial Theatre’s website at: www.augustacolonialtheater.org
Plans to restore the theater include a larger stage, about 800-1000 seats, the installation of box seating in the balcony, a new ceiling, and a new orchestra pit. One of the biggest additions would be a planned 13,000 square-foot new building that would be attached to the northern side of the Colonial, which would help meet modern accessibility requirements and provide space for bathrooms and other modern amenities.
The theater opened in 1913, closed in 1969, and has sat vacant, used only for storage, ever since. Numerous local residents recall seeing movies there over the decades it was in operation.
It showed now-classic movies starring icons such as Bette Davis, Roy Rogers, Charlton Heston and The Three Stooges. Ticket prices were 10 to 75 cents.
The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.