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Acadia Cinema exterior conservation completed

WOLFVILLE, NS - Conservation work on the brick exterior of the iconic Acadia Cinema building in downtown Wolfville wrapped up recently.

The extensive scaffolding that draped the structure for a month came down June 26.

Project supervisor and board member Mark Crosby says the 1923 brick exterior has received some much-needed repairs.

Coastal Restoration from Halifax carried out the highest priority work after heritage architect Graham Duffus completed an assessment that called for several phases of needed repairs.

According to Crosby, the masons had to remove and replace some bricks, particularly on the west side. They also discovered a few burnt timbers underneath.

“They really know their business,” Crosby said. “They were thinking the exterior was untouched since 1923.”

The original brick was off size and is considered a specialty heritage brick today.

 “They also did some repairs and refinishing of the lintels and treated all the window frames upstairs to match,” he said.

“It was really necessary brick work. We knew it was bad, but it was really bad.”

He said the firm went above and beyond without adding to the original quote. Coastal Restoration co-owner Bryce Morash visited the site and termed the cinema “an important fixture in the downtown.”

The non-profit Acadia Cinema Co-op co-owns the building with Just Us Coffee Roasters Co-op. The facility hosted 289 events in the past year.

The structure was granted heritage property status by both the province and the town in the last year. The owners are planning an event in the fall to unveil the bronze plaques, which will be installed on the front of the building.

“This is an important and beloved building on the main street of a very vibrant and important town,” added Crosby.

He hopes the heritage designation ensures the building will continue to be preserved.

“We have applied for some grants to help with this and are awaiting approval,” Crosby said.

Community support

The brick masonry work had a $124,000 price tag.

Crosby thanked all the tenants of the building, the café staff and patrons for their patience and understanding in the midst of the noise and chaos around them.

Crosby’s two sons, who work in commercial construction management, helped the volunteer board draw up the proposal and award the contract. Co-op treasurer Paul Callaghan said in the past year, there were a record number of new shares purchased in support of renovation needs.

“The commitment of these shareholders speaks to their appreciation of all the presenters who rent the theatre to make such a wide variety of cultural events available to our community,” he said.

Callaghan says it’s a critical component of the downtown core in Wolfville because events at the theatre bring audiences to Main Street.

Someday, Crosby said, the facility may expand backwards to provide better green room space and storage, as well as a possible rental area for additional income.

“That is just in the speculative stage at this time, and we would have to do a feasibility study before seriously considering it,” he added.

A solar array on the roof to provide electricity to offset our energy consumption is another possibility, he said.

Did you know?

- The Acadia Cinema was built as the 500-seat Opera House, which ran from 1911–1923

- Admission was 10¢ (15¢ for balcony reserved seats) and films were black and white.

- It was the Orpheum Theatre from 1923–1947 

- Events at the theatre included the annual high school Christmas season extravaganza, Acadia Seminary Glee Club operetta and political gatherings

- The installation of RCA Photophone sound equipment in 1930 heralded the coming of the ‘talking picture’

- It was called the Acadia Theatre after 1947 - the new theatre was first and foremost a motion picture venue and added the now iconic Acadia marquee

- It was dubbed the Al Whittle Theatre in 2004 

- Mayor Bob Stead and Acadia president Gail Dinter- Gottlieb pulled a symbolic lever created to relight the marquee

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