WHEELING - A national terra-cotta expert turned his attention to Wheeling's Capitol Theatre this week and was impressed by what he found.
The Captiol's facade is being closely inspected by architectural conservator Hector Abreu, who compared the terra-cotta detail to that of some theaters he has seen in major cities around the country. Abreu was hired to evaluate the structural integrity of the front facade with the assistance of David Cook of Carpenter's Local 3.
Abreu has been taking a close look at the facade, taking photos and testing the integrity of the terra-cotta, which is a clay-based, glazed ceramic material. Abreu said he was hired by Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp. to do the inspection work, which is funded with a National Parks Service $200,000 "Save America's Treasures" grant WNHAC secured in 2010.
Photo by Scott McCloskey
Architectural conservator Hector Abreu, left, and David Cook with Carpenter’s Local 3 inspect the structural integrity of the front facade of the Capitol Theatre in Wheeling on Tuesday.
"The gentleman we brought in is a terra-cotta expert who works with the National Parks Service ... ," said Jeremy Morris, executive director of WNHAC. "He's worked with a lot of federal programs and departments on their buildings. He's coming in to evaluate the structural stability of the facade and what work we need to do."
Morris said Abreu will be able to provide WNHAC with a "specification report" following his inspection this week. It will pinpoint various problems with the Capitol's front facade.
"We will turn that (information) into a bid document, and it will go out to bid to contractors," Morris added.
Abreu said he is a private contractor who has done conservation work all around the country, specializing in terra-cotta. He said his specification report will assist WNHAC in determining what areas are in more "urgent need of restoration" and what areas that are more stable.
"I have never been to Wheeling, and you would assume this kind of theater ... you would find in a major city ... ," Abreu said. "I was quite impressed. When I got here and actually saw it I said, 'This is just a beautiful, beautiful, theater.' The level of terra-cotta detail is just really fantastic, and I compare it to some that I have seen in the major big cities like St. Louis, Philadelphia and even Chicago and New York.
"You all should be very proud to have a building of this type in your community - and, in addition, that it is being used," he continued. "It is so sad. I have seen so many theaters like this around the country that have been abandoned, emptied, torn down, because unfortunately the downtowns become kind of abandoned.