It's all about perseverance...
On August 20, 2004, Souderton Real Estate Agent Ed Buchinski and his business partner John Schortz purchased the former Valley Theater in East Greenville, PA. To quote Jane Thompson-Smith in the September 30, 2004 edition of The Hearthstone Town and Country newspaper, "Ed Buchinski works in real estate, but he might as well be a magician". Thompson-Smith went on to say, "Conditions were so bad at the theater that it seemed more like a run down tenement than a historic landmark."
But you can see for yourself...
Work on the building, inside and outside, began immediately after settlement. It was nearly the end of August, and there were two important milestones to reach: new roof and spouting to keep the interior dry, and heat for the upcoming winter. While it was still nice and warm outside, the entire building was so incredibly wet that even after pointing and 2 acid-washings, lime from the original mortar continued to leach onto the exterior brick.
The intent was to return the theater's interior to its 1924 grandeur. The auditorium ceiling in its heyday must have been spectacular, but in its 2004 condition was compromised, rusted, and collapsing. With the discovery of the tin wall panels behind the soaked layers of curtain, there was a dilemma: take the curtains down first to let the walls dry, or take the ceiling down first, leaving the curtains to protect the tin walls. Ultimately, the curtains came down first to expose the most spectacular feature of the auditorium, with exception for the proscenium arch which was still hidden behind a wrinkled movie screen.
Two styles of the original tin ceiling panels were sent to Brian Greer's Tin Ceilings, Walls & Unique Metal Work, located in Ontario. Thanks to his expertise, The Grand has had its original tin ceiling pattern reproduced. Brian also had a selection of "stock" that precisely matched other sections of the ceiling, walls, and adornment throughout the theater.
While the ceiling panels were being made, a lot was going on inside the theater...
The auditorium was gutted, and just about every piece of wood was removed. The inside was so wet, the old doors leading into the auditorium were covered in mold. The old candy counter was demolished, and under the platform we found a time capsule with a copy of the December 15, 1982 Town and Country newspaper and a special note!
All of the rusty and decaying wall panels were sand blasted and primed. Fire doors were relocated, allowing the stage to be enlarged and the proscenium arch widened. The water main, and entire water supply to the theater was replaced. The electrical service to the building was upgraded, and all wiring throughout the building was replaced. Fiberglass insulation was installed in the auditorium ceiling and elsewhere. Most of the lathe to support the tin ceiling in the auditorium was replaced. The projection room was built with a new layout, and dozens of wires were run throughout the theater for sound and lighting.
The lobby was also gutted, revealing more tin behind the drop ceiling.
Certainly not on budget, a propane tank was buried in the rear of the property for heat. Seems that the local supplier of natural gas was over capacity and couldn't meet the theater's demands for fuel. The already installed HVAC units had to be converted for a new fuel source.
It is now January of 2005, and finally the ceiling goes up...
One by one, unlike the original tin panels which were 2 squares attached, the auditorium ceiling was painstakingly replaced. Such care was taken by The Grand's friend, Dan Traupman, to ensure that the panels ran precisely down the center of the auditorium and then square throughout.
2/21/05 - Please check back soon for more pictures of the restoration!