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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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2/17/2010 10:04:00 PM
Facelift at 105?
Progress continues on Elks Opera House restoration as theater prepares for birthday bash
Local artists Shari Stura and Luis Sanjurjo of Custom Surface Innovations Inc. have been working for weeks on the intricate stenciling that will adorn the walls of the newly restored Elks Opera House. The gold stenciling is just one feature.
Cindy Barks/The Daily CourierLocal artists Luis Sanjurjo and Shari Stura of Custom Surface Innovations Inc. apply gold stenciling to the front of the balcony as part of the restoration of the historic Elks Opera House.
Cindy Barks/The Daily Courier
Local artists Luis Sanjurjo and Shari Stura of Custom Surface Innovations Inc. apply gold stenciling to the front of the balcony as part of the restoration of the historic Elks Opera House.
Cindy Barks/The Daily CourierMembers of the Prescott City Council and city staff recently got a tour of the restoration project that is under way at the downtown Elks Opera House. Here, project Architect Bill Otwell, second from right, points out some of the decorative features in the project, including the carved wood corbel above one of the opera boxes.
Cindy Barks/The Daily Courier
Members of the Prescott City Council and city staff recently got a tour of the restoration project that is under way at the downtown Elks Opera House. Here, project Architect Bill Otwell, second from right, points out some of the decorative features in the project, including the carved wood corbel above one of the opera boxes.

Cindy Barks
The Daily Courier


PRESCOTT - When the city briefly opened the Elks Opera House to the public in December for the annual Acker Musical Showcase, hundreds of locals lined up on Gurley Street for a chance to get inside.

By the end of the evening, 2,400 people had come through the doors of the historic downtown theater for the holiday music - and for a glimpse of the restoration that was under way.

That response was just one indication of the interest that the massive $1.4 million restoration has generated in the community.

Since July 2009, the theater has been "dark" to make way for the project, which includes everything from a complete facelift of the interior to a restoration of the historic marquee at the entrance on Gurley Street.

This weekend, locals will have another opportunity to see the work-in-progress.

To celebrate the theater's 105th birthday, an open house will take place on Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m., featuring "ghosts of past performers," such as composer John Philip Sousa, vaudeville performer Sophie Tucker, and historian Sharlot Hall.

While the event is free and open to the public, it is also a fundraiser, and the sponsoring Elks Opera House Foundation hopes it will help to generate enough money to ensure that all of the finishing touches make it into the final project.

Mindful of the historic significance of bringing the theater back to its original grandeur, organizers say the birthday bash will give attendees one last chance to "see the old girl in her 'before' state, without the grand finery that is coming in the months ahead."

While plenty of work has already taken place in the theater, Lee Vega, project manager for the contractor Haley Construction, says much of the early work was beneath the surface.

For months, crews focused on shoring up structural aspects of the building and installing a new fire-sprinkler system.

But in recent weeks, a number of the aesthetic improvements have begun taking shape. Members of the Prescott City Council got a look at the unfolding transformation two weeks ago, when they took a tour of the building.

At that time, project Architect Bill Otwell said workers were "starting some of the finishing elements." He pointed, for instance, to the decorative corbels at the archways, the replicated opera boxes, and the efforts that have taken place to uncover the 1920s-era marquee at the Gurley Street entrance.

In addition, local artists Luis Sanjurjo and Shari Stura of Custom Surface Innovations Inc. have been working on the intricate stenciling that will rim many of the walls in the theater.

Also to begin soon is the raised-plaster work that will replicate the look in the original 1905 opera house.

Kurt Vogel will serve as master of ceremonies for Saturday's birthday event. A number of local performers, including Clyde Score, Tedd DeLong, Alicia Bauer, Parker Anderson, Jody Drake, Melissa Ruffner, Lecia Breen, J. Peter Madine and Gail Mangham, will appear.

The restoration project, which the Elks Opera House Foundation has been working toward for years, got a major boost in 2008 when the Harold James Family Trust contributed $1 million to the Foundation's efforts. The City of Prescott, which owns the theater, has also put nearly a half-million dollars into the restoration.

The foundation plans a grand opening to unveil the completed theater in July.




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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, February 25, 2010
Article comment by: PJ Jackson

Kudos to everyone involved in the restoration of the Elk's Opera House. As a chapter past committee member of the International Decorative Artisan League I concur that you did your homework on approaching Custom Surface Innovations for recreation of the theaters decorative arts. They undoubtedly studied the time period and succeeded in restoring the stenciling to original beauty. A smattering of artists would know to single color and solidify the color within each shape. As a stencil historian I will make it a point to visit when I return to Scottsdale this year and propose the work for award nomination.



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