Anyone tired of hearing me talk about the Sun Theater Historical Restoration yet? Well tough. But I am going to highlight something that I have not highlighted before. The extensive plaster restoration that took place. This is the most eye popping and jaw dropping part of the restoration (at least that’s what I think!)
Well let’s start with my first visit to the space. Aside from some sunlight coming from a “skylight” (hole in the roof) it was pitch black in the theater. It was clear that the elements had their way for quite some time. We cautiously walked across the stage being careful not to fall through. As we walked into the theater we turned our flashlights on the space and only then did we really understand the magnitude of what we were attempting.
So just a quick background on what you are looking at. This is the main stage opening (proscenium), and the photo was taken from the balcony. Since this project was a historical rehabilitation we had guidelines on what was to be restored and how. The main interior historical features are the ornate plaster around the proscenium, balconies, and ceiling medallion. You can see that there are large (gigantic) sections that are damaged or non-existent. So now that we have established that, let’s move on to the process.
The first question that is asked the most is “where do you even begin?” I certainly asked myself that question several times. But really the first steps are to start peeling back the layers until you get to the “good stuff” or the bones that you will use to rebuild the plaster and everything else on.
So now with all the seats, stage, fallen plaster, miscellaneous debris, and lots of pigeon “stuff” removed, we start to get a better view of the challenge we have ahead of us. Next step is to build a jungle gym of scaffolding in order to gain access to the plaster and ceiling. This was a fun process to see how the erectors traverse the scaffolding – they are like monkeys in the trees.
Once the scaffolding was complete we are able to actually walk up to the plaster, to touch it, to see the damage. So the next step was to remove the old plaster and get back to the “good” plaster and start making repairs to the steel structure that supports the actual plaster.
With a good understanding of the magnitude of our restoration we worked to identify all the pieces that molds had to be created for. In order to create the molds, all the old layers of paint had to be stripped off. Once that was complete, the existing plaster was coated in rubber and given time to cure. Here you can see the preparation for the largest mold we had to create. This mold was over 6 feet long and over 3 feet tall.
In addition to the larger pieces, we had to recreate several smaller very detailed pieces.
Aside from the modern rubber that are used to make the molds (the green rubber in the below photo) the process is very similar to the original plaster process. Once we had created the molds many of the pieces were actually cast off-site in a more controlled environment. When they removed the molds, you are able to see many of the original markings from the original artisans.
That is all for this round. Stay tuned for Part 2 in the near future, where we visit the installation of all the new pieces and the finishing process.