Colonial Theater in Augusta, seen in 2021 after a newly renovated ornamental crown piece was reinstalled on the roofline, has been awarded a $160,229 grant to repair windows and doors, among other work. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — The Colonial Theater is one of four organizations across Maine to receive more than $650,000 in grant funding from the National Park Service for historic preservation projects.

The theater on Water Street will use its $160,229 award to pay for repairs to windows and exterior doors as part of its multi-million-dollar renovation project.

In addition to renovations to the windows and doors on the front side of the building, a walkway down the south side of the building to new exit doors will also be built.

“We will be spiffing up the outside of the building some more,” Kathi Wall, the Colonial’s executive director, said Tuesday.

The funds come to the state through the REvitalizeME Gen2 National Park Service sub-grant program and were awarded through the Maine Downtown Center.

Anne Ball, program director of the Maine Downtown Center, said one of the reasons the organization was awarded the sub-grant program was that the National Park Service wanted to show that economic development and historic preservation go hand in hand.

Advertisement

The National Park Service’s objective is supporting rehabilitating historic properties that will drive economic development in rural communities.

“If you look at the Downtown Center, that’s what that program does,” Ball said. “It’s about revitalizing downtowns and communities through historic preservation. What that really means is incremental changes and creating a sense of place.”

Redevelopment of one building can spark the redevelopment of a neighboring building, she said, which can open up opportunities for businesses and housing.

In the case of the Colonial Theater, Ball said it’s an anchor building at the north end of Augusta’s downtown that can spur economic development.

“Quality of life and sense of place — these are not just buzzwords,” she said. “These are the real deal. They attract workforce; they attract people that want to live there.”

The Colonial Theater, built in 1913 and rebuilt after a fire damaged the original structure in 1926, hosted vaudeville acts in its earlier years and entertained people across the capital region as a movie theater until it closed in 1969.

Advertisement

Supporters are now working to make the facility a center for arts and culture in Augusta, with live and streamed performances and events, and an anchor for the redevelopment of the capital city’s downtown neighborhood.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of bringing back the original theater building and adding an annex was estimated at $8.2 million, but with supply chain issues and inflation, that is expected to increase.

Augusta Colonial Theater Executive Director Kathi Wall, seen in 2020, said this week that a new grant will help with improvements to the theater’s windows and doors. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Wall said she expects the work to happen this year to meet the deadline spelled out in the grant.

“We do have some of the original doors that are still usable, and they will be restored as much as we can,” she said.

In the event any of the doors can’t be restored, reproductions will be used, she said.

Wall said the theater redevelopment project has attracted a group of workers who step up when projects like work being funded by this grant come around. And to ensure the historical standards are met, Colonial Theater officials work with Scott Hanson, a historical consultant based in Topsham.

The Maine Downtown Center is a program of the Maine Development Foundation, which partnered with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission on this program.

The other grant recipients are the Old Hancock County Sheriff’s Home and Jail in Ellsworth, awarded $200,000 for masonry repair; the Porter Memorial Library in Machias, awarded $48,000 for the plans to add an elevator that will make the library accessible; and the Bag Mill in Rumford, awarded $200,000 for roof repair and energy efficiency and $48,560 for plans and a window survey.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.