GOWANDA - The Historic Hollywood Theater is $100,000 closer toward its restoration goal, but the amount is still a relatively small step on the journey of work that must be done.
The theater is one of 45 awardees across the state of a New York Main Street grant, issued through the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). The $100,000 is added to other grants received through help of state legislators Joseph Giglio and Catharine Young as well as a $1 million matching grant received through the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) as an officially registered historic landmark.
It's not money to sneeze at, but according to Hollywood Historic Theater Board President Mark Burr, there is still some way to go to bring the building back to something the public to enjoy, and even more to also restore its 1926 roots, as required by the OPRHP.
The Historic Hollywood Theater in Gowanda
The total amount of work is approximately $4.3 million, according to an architectural report received by the theater board.
Not all of that work must be done to open the theater to the public, however. The project consists of a mix of updating technology and restoring original aesthetics. The former, Burr said, is what the theater board wishes to complete first, allowing the theater to be opened to the community and able to generate some of its own proceeds. Even that, however, is expected to cost from $2 million to $2.25 million.
And the $1 million matching grant from the OPRHP? Sorry; once the theater's $500,000 contribution to it is saved up, it still can only be used for preservation work. This means that the money can primarily be used only for what the audience will see while in the theater. Objects such as the radiators in the lobby, which are part of the heating system, are considered historic and will be maintained, contributing to the first goal of getting the building in running order. Other things, such as painting and moulding work, is covered by the OPRHP grant but only helps visually.
"What [the OPRHP] want to preserve is the historic fabric of the building," Burr said. "So if you're going to go there - say to a movie - you're going to go in the lobby and see certain things. And you're going to go through the doors and sit in a seat and watch the stage. All the things that you would see as part of regular admission to that building would be things considered the historic fabric of the building.
"Now things that would be up in the ceiling that you can't see, or in the basement that you can't see or behind the stage ... they will generally allow substantial modifications to it as long as it would not interfere with the historic fabric - those historic elements of the building."
Where form and function mix - as with the above-mentioned radiators - approval from the OPRHP is also required. Sometimes the most efficient route is one that can not be taken when preservation is on the line.
"Certainly it's a challenge, because what we want to be able to do there is to show a modern play; a modern cinema - a movie. And we have to go back in there and, for example, run some wires for speakers. Now that may look a little different than what's out there now. We need to go through a pre-approval process that says yes, you can do this, and you need to do it in this form and fashion. Essentially, what we've got to do is come up with a complete design and send that out to Historic Preservation. They review that and say, 'Yes, this is OK, that's OK, but on this I want you to do this, this and this instead of that.'"
The $100,000 from the Main Street grant is expected to go into the demolition and replacement of the building's heating system.
"I don't know if 100 grand is enough to do that, but it goes a long ways to do what you gotta do," Burr said.
Most electrical work has already been completed, with new wiring laid outside the theater and some internal electrical structuring still needing to be updated.
Burr noted that, after 10 years of Hollywood Happening events in Gowanda to help raise money for the restoration, some people wonder where progress is being shown. He said that the celebration brings in $30,000-$45,000 for the theater annually, but the majority of that funding has been saved to match the OPRHP grant. According to Burr, $250,000-$300,000 is currently stored for that purpose.
"The little things are happening, and the public perception is correct as we've not done a lot of construction work, which is true. But the money is in the bank - not all of it, but a good portion of what we need is in the bank."
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