The attic at The Lansdowne posed multiple challenges in the asbestos abatement project. Ductwork ran from the main chandelier to the wall between the lobby and auditorium in the attic. The ductwork supplied heated and cooled air to the theater. (Please note—if you were a patron of the theater or attended any of the Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation events you were NOT exposed to the asbestos.)
The main challenge was that there is no floor in the attic—just a small catwalk that leads to a winch that raises and lowers the chandelier. (The winch that lowers the chandelier to the floor is shown in the attached video.) The “floor” in the attic is the upper side of the ceiling below. To complicate matters even more that “floor” sits anywhere between 5’ and 10’ below the steel structure that supports the roof and from which the auditorium ceiling is suspended. Here’s a video that shows the challenges of the project.
To create an area for the asbestos remediation contractor to create a containment unit needed for the abatement and for the workers to stand on, a floor had to be built using wood planks. Even getting the planks to the attic was a challenge. Scaffolding was constructed on the side of the building that had a small lift that raised the planks to the second floor, then a section of the second-floor ceiling was removed, and the planks were handed to carpenters in the attic who laid the floor. To complicate the situation more a section of the scaffolding/planks had to be hung from the steel structure under the main floor.
Once the flooring was safely in place, the floor and ductwork were contained in plastic and the asbestos-containing materials were removed. Once the material was removed an air-monitoring company took air samples to confirm that asbestos was not circulating in the attic. Good news—we passed. Once that was completed the containment unit was taken down, and the large ductwork was cut into sections and sent to the recycling center.
The project was completed on time, on budget, and with no mishaps. The $200,000 project was funded by a major grant from the Commonwealth Finance Authority (CFA) and by individual donors to the Annual Fund Drive. The Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation thanks the Borough of Lansdowne for sponsoring our successful application to the CFA.
Spring 2020 to 2021
The Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation (HLTC) engaged the firm Atkin Olshin Schade Architects to develop the architectural design for the historic theater and the building addition to be constructed behind the theater.
After meeting with the upcoming theater operator and the HLTC to determine their needs and desires, the architects set about documenting the building and then working with sub-designers and engineers to create drawings and manuals that will guide the rehabilitation of the historic theater and construction of the building addition.
In addition to the architect, Atkin Olshin Schade Architects, the HLTC engaged Keast & Hood Structural Engineers (structural engineers), Bruce E. Brooks & Associates (mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection), H. Gilroy Damon Associates (civil engineers) and Accentech (AV/Acousticians). The team also included Columbus Construction (construction managers) who developed budgets for the project and helped to determine constructability of the proposed design. The construction drawings were completed in 2021.
May to October 2019
The facade project at The Lansdowne was completed October 15th. The photograph on the left is the "before." Notice the encrusted corbel, under the balcony, and compare it to "after" on the right. Look atop the window surround -- the cast stone finials were refabricated and are back in place for the first time since the 1960s. The metal balcony railing is repainted and the marble above the window has been replaced. Thanks go out to the Materials Conservation Team--- Dave, Lee, Toby and Ben for their great work. Many thanks to the project funders--- DELCO Council, The Presser Foundation, The Connelly Foundation and donors to the theater's Annual Fund.
The "before" photo. The cast stone corbel under the balcony is filthy. There's biological growth on the face of the balcony, the mortar joints in the cast stone have lost all their pointing. The bases of the finials are on top of the window surround, but the finials are gone. The stucco and cast stone need a real good cleaning!
The "after" photo of the decorative windows on the tour of The Lansdowne. The cast stone finials on top of the window are back, the broken marble is replaced, the pointing of the cast stone is complete. The railing has been cleaned and repainted. The stucco has been cleaned and repainted to match the original.
Check out more photos from the facade restoration project. Hover over the photo for a description.
May to June 2019
Check out the mock-up on the ceiling of the theater. The finishes on the right side of the ceiling appear as it would have in 1927. Half of the shield in the background has been regilded with "Dutch Gold" and aluminum leaf. Note that the cornice has also been regilded with "Dutch Gold" and the tiles on the right side of the wall have been redone so that they appear to be dimensional rather than flat. The overall effect of the restoration of the ceiling will result in a much brighter room that matches how the space appeared when new.
Jeff Greene, Chairman of EverGreene Architectural Arts, explains how his firm created a mockup that provides a glimpse into the how the ceiling and other details will appear once restored.
September 2017 to May 2018
Funding to complete the window restoration came from The Presser Foundation and the PA Historical and Museum Commission. The expert conservation team at Materials Conservation restored the original windows on the front and south side of the building. Because windows are exposed to the elements they take a real beating. Unfortunately, sometimes they need to be replaced -- NOT at The Lansdowne. These galvanized steel windows were built to last. 90 years old and looking and working great! Ready for another 90+ years of service.
Happiness is having restored windows reinstalled at the theater just as the temperature starts dropping! The foreman for this job is Lansdowne resident Dave Facenda. Thanks go out to Dave and his crew for their great work!
For those of you who love restored old hardware, below are the original window lock, window pull, and sash pulley. Pretty cool!
Outdoor Lobby & Ticket Booth
Dec 2014 to Sept 2015
The long awaited restoration of the Lansdowne Theater Outdoor Lobby was put out for bid on December 18th, 2014. The project included the restoration of the ticket booth, poster cases, stucco, front door, light fixtures and fabrication of the long-ago removed poster cases on the front of the theater. The restoration is funded by a Community Development Block Grant awarded to the Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation by Delaware County Council.
Design fees for the project are supported by generous contributions from the theater supporters.
Pendant lights behind ticket booth removed for restoration. These pendent lights have hung in the lobby since the theater opened in June 1927. Multiple generations of insects have called the light fixtures home.
At last the Pepto Bismol pink is gone from the Lansdowne Theater. With the repair and smoothing of the plaster cornice the lobby has been primed. We had two historic pieces of glass that sat in the light fixtures for over 80 years. We used them to make new pieces to replace the missing. The custom made glass is a small element of the overall project, but when all the small components are in place you are struck that you have stepped into a very special place.
After removing many, many layers of paint Materials Conservation discovered these great colors. Now sitting in front of the textured stucco cut to appear as if they are building blocks, the historic poster cases look great and change the entire feel of the outdoor lobby. Little by little we better understand what Wm. H. Lee the architect who designed the theater in 1927 was doing.
The cresting mimics the detail on the historic poster cases. The color scheme comes from the original poster cases. Our wonderful volunteer graphic designer Carol Coster designed a new logo for the theater featuring the lioness depicted in plaster in in the interior.
Most of the original wood of the ticket booth was replaced over the years, and what was left was eaten by termites or impacted by water. However,, the outer skin -- the 1930s stainless steel was salvaged, and all of the marble will be used again. Some of the 1927 details that were hidden by the stainless steel, but unseen since the '30s were put back on the booth and covered by the steel -- for the next people to find when the booth needs to be restored 80 years from now.)
All of the electrical wiring was redone for the new poster cases that will grace the front of the building and the electricity to the booth is now below the sidewalk.
Oct 2011 to Oct 2012
At a press conference held under the Lansdowne Theater Marquee on an October Thursday in 2011, Delaware County Council President John Whelan presented a check for $126,500 to the Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation Board of Directors. The grant funds come from Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program.
The funds were used to restore the long-dark marquee to its pre-1970 appearance. Over a year-long process, the plastic panels on the top of the marquee were replaced with refabricated metal letters outlined in blue neon and spelling LANSDOWNE. The marquee was completely rewired, cleaned, painted, reroofed, broken glass replaced with glass matching the original and high-efficiency LED lightbulbs installed on the underside. (There are 98 lightbulbs under the marquee. The LED bulbs will use 1/8 of the energy of the originals.). Long-missing details were re-fabricated or replacement parts were hunted.
Funding for the development of design and bid documents was provided by numerous individual donors and the Greater Lansdowne Civic Association.
Architectural Reports & Design
October 5, 2012
Hundreds of community members showed up to witness the relighting of the fully restored marquee, which had been dark for over 25 years and incompletely constructed for over 65. The mood was electric!
Ceremony sponsored by: Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, Brandywine Convention and Visitors Bureau, First Cornerstone Bank, Friends of Nick Micozzie, Charlie Dougherty Janitorial Services, Yards Brewing Co., Mellon Certified Restoration, 2312 The Garrett, Argana Restaurant, The Carpenter Team, Steve E. Love Studios, Barbara and Bob Jara, Violet and Bill Brown, and Delaware County Daily Times.
The architectural and schematic designs for the entire theater project are one of the more costly -- but obviously necessary -- steps to get us to construction. The good news is, this step has been finalized as of 2018, with minor changes possible as we embark on the next steps. The design documents, the environmental reports ($10,220), and the economic impact analysis ($10,000) would all not have been possible without the generous support of the community, from individual donors to public and grant funds. Thank you.
The Pennsylvania Development of Community and Economic Development (DCED) awarded an $89,050 grant to the Lansdowne Theater Project in support of the schematic design phase for the entire theater. These funds are matched with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, National Trust for Historic Preservation and generous individual donors to the project.
After the building was purchased, the HLTC had to immediately stabilize the building. The wall was leaning in, the roof was leaking pretty badly. After being shuttered for decades, it was in pretty bad shape. The HLTC stabilized the building by fixing leaks in the roof, installing a fire detection system throughout the building, and bringing the office and retail spaces into compliance with building codes.
The Lansdowne Theater was purchased debt-free via public funds secured by the non-profit HLTC in late 2007. The building was weeks away from becoming a storage warehouse for electric supply company. Executive Director Matt Schultz fought the move, pointing out that according to Borough zoning, warehouses are not allowed in the Central Business District. After many discussions with local residents, consultants and architects, the corporation’s board of directors decided that the best use of the building was as a concert venue featuring nationally-known adult alternative and classic rock musicians and singer songwriters. And so our journey began...