Like Hillsboro plan, Wilmington theater facade gets lift


The Colony Theatre in Hillsboro is not the only area historic theater where a façade facelift is in the works.

The first phase of the façade restoration of the Murphy Theatre in Wilmington is finished — all of the decorative cornice pieces have been removed and all the terra cotta on the front of the building is prepared and ready for the next phase of the project.

Workers began removing the sidewalk scaffolding in front of the theater on Monday. That scaffolding is expected to be gone by Wednesday, with that block of West Main Street in Wilmington to be reopened Monday afternoon.

Painting around the ticket booth will resume later this week. Scaffolding will be back up for three to four weeks in June when the project nears completion.

In Hillsboro, city council has approved a plan to maintain the façade and entranceway of the Colony, while the auditorium will likely be demolished. The Colony has suffered extensive water damage and disrepair in recent years, and no one has stepped forward to spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to repair the structure, or a plan to sustain the facility if it was repaired.

At the March Hillsboro council meeting, interim safety and service director Gary Silcott said the city is ready to put out bid requests for the demolition of the back portion of the Colony. But the façade and front indoor part of the theater will be preserved, according to a plan approved by council last year, although several details remain to be finalized.

The general plan calls for refurbishing the façade of the theater and creating a walkway that could include benches and an atrium-style breezeway leading to a parking lot where the auditorium now stands. The plan includes a return to the theater’s original look when it featured a different style of marquee and a taller sign than exists today.

City officials have been tackling the Colony issue with the input of several local residents, including historical society leaders, especially Avery Applegate and John Kellis, who, with the help of others, led the effort to remove and preserve the eight large relief murals that adorned the walls of the Colony’s auditorium.

The Murphy opened in Wilmington in 1918, built by Charles Webb Murphy, according to a history of the Murphy found at the theater’s website. Beginning in 1929, it was leased to Chakeres Theaters, which was revving up its movie house chain, including the building of the Colony in Hillsboro, which opened in 1938.

The Murphy Theatre is owned and supported by a not-for-profit organization comprised of local volunteers. The Murphy remains a home for “touring performers, local theater productions, school events, performing arts education, business meetings and weddings,” according to The Murphy Theatre website.
Murphy facade upgraded, Colony plan in works

The Times-Gazette

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