Timeline of Park Theatre Renovation

Timeline of Park Theatre Renovation

Posted by on Sep 23, 2003 | 0 comments

From North Vernon Sun special section
Sept. 23, 2003

1987—The Jennings County Players agree to pursue the old Park Theater in downtown North Vernon as a home to the community theater.

Spring 1996—Historic Landmarks Foundation and a matching pledge from the Jennings County Players fund a feasibility study on the future of the old Park Theater.

April 22, 1996—According to Park Theatre owner Max Wiley, wind gusts of up to 45 m.p.h.  Saturday night “got under the roof and tried to lift it off.” When the roof did not give, the roof “slammed down and something had to give.” By Monday afternoon, Nora Campbell, who rents the front of the Park for her beauty shop “kept hearing things fall,” Wiley recounts. The three-day fight with gravity and wind “was like watching a tornado in slow motion.” One-fourth of the roof is gone.

July 11, 1996—Articles of Incorporation of the Park Theatre Civic Centre is signed by Mike Whitehead, Hulda and William Reichenbach, Alan L. Marshall, Jerry Sharp and Patricia Yount.

Aug. 14, 1996—The board of directors of the newly formed Park Theatre Civic Centre Inc. signs an option to purchase the Park Theater with Max Wiley. Purchase price has been donated by an anonymous donor. Board members are Hulda Reichenbach, Patti Yount, Doug Pittman,  Bill Reichenbach, Larry Knarr,  Mary Knarr, Jane Coquerille, Mike Whitehead, Alan Marshall and Jerry Sharp.

Feb. 18, 1997—The non-profit Park Theatre Civic Centre, Inc. purchases the Madison Avenue structure from owner Max Wiley for $35,466.38. First order of work is to finalize plans for the roof.

March 4, 1997—Cinergy Foundation awards the Park a $5,000 challenge grant.

May 27, 1997—State Sen. Johnny Nugent announces the Park Theatre will receive $25,000 from the Build Indiana Funds. The money will be used to replace the theatre’s roof. Fund-raising continues.

Jan. 15, 1998—The board of directors advertise for bids for contractors to fix up the exterior of the building, including replacement windows and to tuck point the brick facade. Marvin Marksberry has already been hired to install a new rubber roof on the first third of the structure at a cost of $19,000.  The board is still grappling with the issue of the collapsed roof at the rear of the building.

April 28, 1998—Joe Bott volunteers to restore the theatre’s light fixtures, which he remembered as giving him comfort when, as a young boy, he saw the scary movie at the downtown movie house.

May 1998—State Sen. Markt Lytle presents a $25,000 check to the board from the Build Indiana Fund. Meanwhile, the board has opted to restore the remaining three brick walls at the theatre’s rear. After NRS  Inc. Masonry Restoration completes the work, a new foundation will be laid the length of the structure for steel posts. It is these posts that will support the new roof.

September 1998—The Jennings County Community Foundation board of directors approves a $100,000 request from the Park Theatre group, with the money part of the Lilly Endowment Inc.’s GIFT program available to the JCCF.

May 1999—Sen. Nugent and Rep. Markt Lytle announce $300,000 will help fund renovations at the Park, with $200,000 from the state’s General Fund and $100,000 from the Build Indiana Fund.  This money will pay for interior renovation, as well as architectural design. To date, $157,000 has been spent on the Park.

June 15, 1999—Completion of the new roof at the Park is expected this week. Work on the installation of steel trusses began two weeks ago, with steel decking mounted to the trusses. Harmon Construction is in charge of the massive project at a cost of $105,000.

Oct. 14, 1999—The Park Theatre tells the City Council  opening night for the Park Theatre is set Oct. 4, 2000, even if people have to bring their own chairs.

Jan. 25, 2000—Hulda Reichenbach reports it will cost as much as $400,000 more to complete the renovation.  The main project now is the one for seats. Those who donate $350 will have their name engraved on a plate to be installed on an individual seat.

June 13, 2000—Indiana’s first lady Judy O’Bannon visits the Park and applauds the efforts to renovate the downtown attraction. “There is more than mortar and bricks here,” she said. “This building has life. There is a lot of value in buildings like this.”

Aug. 24, 2000—A representative of the Theatre Historical Society of America visits the Park Theatre. Clifford Edge of Robstown, Texas was impressed with the on-going work. “My trip to the Park was the highlight of my many theatre visits,” Edge wrote in a letter to the Reichenbachs after his tour.

October 2000—The original grand opening date is not been met as “it is taking a little longer than anticipated,” says Hulda Reichenbach. The most recent donation for the work was a $1,500 pledge from Delta Theta Tau to be used in the downstairs women’s restroom

Dec. 5, 2000—322 theatre seats arrive in North Vernon to be stored until the auditorium is completed to allow installation. To date, the project has received $450,000 in government and corporate grants and $131,166.32 in contributions from private individuals and businesses.

June 28, 2001—In an effort to raise needed funds, Perry Studios organizes a benefit concert at St. Mary’s Parish Center. Performers will include A Touch of Class, The Early Evening, Cindy Paswater and the O’Beyers, and individuals Brittany Hall, Adam Davis, Jeff Wahlman and Brian Perry.

July 10, 2001—The July 3 benefit concert raises nearly $12,000 for the Park Theatre.

April 18, 2002—The Park Theatre project is at its halfway mark, but is stymied for lack of funds.  The group appeals for help.

May 28, 2002—The North Vernon City Council challenges business and industry to buy seats at the Park. They agree to  match purchases up to 18 seats, or one row. In the meantime,  Jennings County Middle School students raise funds to purchase one seat at the theatre.

July 2002—A benefit production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” will be performed at JCHS with all proceeds going directly to the ongoing Park Theatre work. Brian Perry is spearheading the production, which raises a total of $15,000. Renovation continues “one step at a time,” says a board member.

November 2002—An anonymous donor presents the Park Theatre board with property valued at approximately $500,000. Bill Reichenbach reports enough money should be realized from the sale of the real estate to fund remaining restoration.

Dec. 16, 2002—A site showing is held for contractors interested in bidding on the remaining work at the Park Theatre.

Jan. 30, 2003—The board announces the theatre will hold its grand opening on October 4, the anniversary of the date in 1916 when it originally opened as the Jennings Theatre.

Spring 2003—Work continues on the Park, with contractors putting in electrical and plumbing improvements.

September 2003—The first of 332 seats are installed in the Park Theatre auditorium, with the sound system and lighting system readied for the grand opening of the renovated Park Theatre Civic Centre.

Sept. 20, 2003—First public event since the Park Theatre’s renovation, A Night of Appreciation concert featuring Brenda Williams and Tim Spradlin of Indianapolis, is held with a gospel sing on Sept. 21. Events in the grand reopening week were Meet Your Candidates night on Sept. 30, bluegrass music concert on Oct. 1, Teen Search talent show contest on Oct. 2, a variety show featuring local talent on Oct. 3 and A Night on Broadway concert featuring Brenda Williams and Tim Spradlin.

Dec. 4, 2003—The Jennings County Players present their first production at the Park Theatre, “A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley.”

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