Older buildings often hold a special place in the heart of a community, especially since many theaters, museums, churches and private homes hold important historical significance. As unique and beautiful as they are, maintaining and restoring historic buildings can be a big, expensive project. Many of the structures in older buildings need to be replaced, as they become less stable over time. Cast iron sewage pipes, which are a common fixture in old buildings, are likely past their 30 year lifetime at this point and need to be replaced. Buildings built before 1978 are likely to have lead paint covering interior walls, which needs to be removed. Outdated electrical systems that create potential for electrical fires need to be replaced. The bottom line? All of these repairs add up quickly. So is it really worth the cost of restoring older buildings? Residents of Hagerstown, MD believe it is.
The Maryland Theater, located in downtown Hagerstown, has spent the last several months under renovation. The $2 million project was aimed at repairing all aspects of the theater, from backstage lighting to the air conditioning system, which used to shake the stage whenever it was turned on. Ceiling repairs were also critical, as a piece of plaster fell from the ceiling last winter. Luckily no one was harmed, but theater personnel didn’t want to risk delaying repairs any longer.
Safety was a major catalyst for renovation of the Maryland Theater, but the City of Hagerstown also wanted to ensure that its “crown jewel” continued to attract big names and draw people to the downtown area. Many Hagerstown residents agree that the Maryland Theater has great cultural significance and is an important downtown attraction to maintain.
Local community organizations readily agreed to donate funds to help support the theater’s restoration. Augustoberfest, the community’s annual celebration of its deeply rooted German heritage, donated $5,000 to renovation efforts. Community leaders say this is a great example of how connected local Hagerstown community groups are to one another, and how important the Maryland Theater is to the people of Hagerstown.
Repairs of the Maryland Theater are expected to wrap up September 18, with the fall show season beginning just two days later with a performance by the Maryland Symphony Orchestra on September 20.