Members of the board of trustees of the Highland County Historical Society continued working Tuesday to carefully remove the murals along the walls of the Colony Theatre in order to preserve them in anticipation of the structure being demolished.
Board members Jim Rooney, Avery Applegate, John Kellis and Tim Koehl are working to remove the relief figures from the framed locations where they have existed for about 78 years.
Hillsboro City Council recently gifted the murals to the historical society. Applegate attended the July council meeting to express her thanks and to suggest future placement of some of the murals.
By mid-afternoon Tuesday, the group, aided by a number of floodlights set up inside the theater, was working on removing the four murals along the north wall of the theater after previously removing the four along the south wall. Rooney and Koehl were handling the removal of rows of theater seats to make room for ladders while Applegate and Kellis gently pried the murals from the wall.
Applegate said she hopes that when the theater is demolished, a new façade facing North High Street will feature a theater-like design with a marquee announcing city events as is being done now, and with some of the murals placed on the front where they can be enjoyed by the public.
Other murals might go elsewhere. A mural depicting a Native American woman could be gifted to the Hillsboro school district in keeping with the school’s Indians nickname, one board member suggested.
When a group toured the Colony in May, an unexpected discovery was made as to the composition of the murals. When a demolition expert took a close look and actually chipped a small piece from one of the murals, everyone was surprised to discover that the relief figures on the murals were made of nothing more than something akin to fiberboard, rather than the stone or concrete most had long believed them to be.
In its heyday, the Colony – built in 1938 for $75,000 – was considered an elaborate palace, as described by news accounts from its opening. But on Tuesday, as items were chipped away, board members were commenting about how modestly and inexpensively some aspects of the theater had been constructed.
Mayor Drew Hastings and others had originally discussed plans to save the theater with a number of interested individuals and organizations. But no one was able to put together the financing – estimated anywhere from $250,000 to $400,000 – to make needed repairs to the roof and other structural and interior deficiencies.
Even when the theater was inhabitable, various organizations struggled with providing enough attractions to make the venue profitable.
Council has yet to make an official determination on demolishing the theater, but at the July meeting everyone seemed resigned to the fact that no alternatives remained. Preliminary plans are to use the space where the rear of the theater exists for parking. Various ideas are being considered for the front of the theater along the sidewalk.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.