Sunday, August 12, 2012

Restoring the Capital Theatre facade

Photo taken in the 1930s

What Antoine Trad uncovered when he removed the siding . . . 

By Nick Lypaczewski, St. Thomas Times-Journal
Saturday, June 30, 2012 10:06:49 EDT AM
ST. THOMAS - One Talbot Street business owner is tentatively experimenting with restoring his property to its former 20th century
Antoine Trad, owner of Antoine's Home Furnishings at the former home of the Capitol Theatre, is pursuing the costs involved in
restoring the facade to its original condition.
"It's not really a decision that's been made yet. If it's going to be like $10 million, it's not going to happen," he suggested.
"(If the project does move forward), it's good for my business because it's going to give me some publicity. I do care about
history. I do care about St. Thomas history."
When Trad bought the property about two years ago, he tried to keep the theatre's interior as intact as possible. The theatre's
original lobby mirrors remain in place as is one of its chandeliers. Trad says they have plans to re-install three more chandeliers
in the near future.
"You need to know where you came from or you're not going to be able to know where you're going. It's like a story, you can't read
the end of the book and understand the whole thing," he explained.
Trad has been in talks with the city about the project for a few months, but only removed material covering the theater's outdoor
stucco signboard last weekend. He had someone familiar with similar signs on site Thursday to discuss what kind of work
needed to be done to spruce it up, but noted the consultant said work on the marquee could present bylaw problems.
An early estimate put the cost of revitalizing the marquee alone at about $70,000.
Trad was, however, surprised at how good the marquee's condition was, considering it had been covered for years.
"We didn't know what was there. We just took the old siding that was covering it up down on Sunday. I didn't think it was going to
be in that good shape, to be honest with you. I thought it was going to be terrible."
Mayor Heather Jackson told the T-J she was also surprised at how good the sign looked after so much time covered up.
"It looks fantastic and it looks to be in better shape I think than probably anybody thought it could be. It looks fantastic and,
hopefully, they'll be able to restore that and not just have to cover it back up."
The project has already been approved for Community Improvement Program funding. During a February council meeting, the
project was approved for a loan of about $20,000 and is also eligible for a $7,500 grant when, and if, the project is completed.
CIP funding fluctuates depending on projects and can come through loans, grants or a combination of both.
CAO Wendell Graves also said he's happy with the plan.
"I think anything that we can do on any of our buildings that restores the heritage attributes of the buildings is a real plus for the
street," he said from city hall.
The cinema opened in the 1930s and had been operated under different ownership until 2008, when then owner Ald. Mark
Cosens had to close due to low patronage.

When my grandparents were young they would receive complimentary pink dishes when the attended a movie at the Capital Theatre.  This is the only piece my Nanna still has.
I loved the Capital Theatre when I was growing up.  I saw so many movies I just can't remember them all.  Some memories that do jump out at me are all of the Planet of the Apes movies, Sound of Music, Ben, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Once the kids started coming it was easier to put blankets in the back of the station wagon (what we used to use before mini vans . . . LOL) and go to the drive in.

I hated the Capital when they chopped it up into three theatres.  It was always dirty and the floors were sticky.  I stopped going.

When the theatre was restored and reopened a few years ago I was so excited but there was never anything playing that I wanted to see . . . until they brought in Mamma Mia and served food and had a bar.  We actually went to that twice.  And then a week or so later the closed sign went up for good.

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