Saint John’s Imperial Theatre has just launched a campaign to raise $3 million to restore its King Square façade, as well as making structural repairs.
The damage was discovered during a routine building audit by DFS Architects and Estabrooks Engineering in 2013. Cracks had appeared in the terracotta and brickwork on the building’s top level and immediately netting was set up to prevent injury to passing pedestrians. Further investigation showed that structural repair would be necessary as well.
“You know how it is: you open up a wall, you look inside, you discover there’s structural work,” says executive director Lee Bolton. The theatre, which was constructed in 1912 and opened in 1913, has seen multiple purposes, including a movie theatre and a meeting place for the Full Gospel Assembly, before being abandoned in 1982. In 1985 it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada, and a campaign began to restore the building to its former glory. The sight of the theatre covered in scaffolding and plywood was a familiar staple of Kings Square from the mid-eighties to mid-nineties before re-opening in 1994. “We’re not changing anything. It’s the joy of heritage work: you work very hard to make it not different.”
The ‘WE ARE *IT’ campaign (the IT being the Imperial Theatre) that launched on Tuesday featured a reception, as well as a performance by ECMA winner Jenn Grant. Saint John – Rothesay MP Wayne Long announced donations of $500k from the Federal Dept. of Heritage, and $200k from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). Construction will begin this Spring and will continue on until Spring 2017, without any interruption to their schedule.
“This is more than a fundraising effort. It’s really about celebrating the role of Imperial Theatre in our community. We need to recognize this institution and what it means to us all – from local singers, dancers and musicians to the international performers who come here because they know Imperial Theatre is someplace special,” said Wayne Chamberlain, co-chair of the campaign.
People interested in supporting Imperial Theatre can donate through its web site www. imperialtheatre.nb.ca or by calling 506-674-4100.