Belmont College

Historic Capitol Theater Restoration Project

Belmont College Building Preservation/Restoration students work to restore the large window above the marquee at the Capitol Theater.

St. Clairsville, OH (September 19, 2012) – For over 84 years the Capitol Theater, previously known as the Capitol Music Hall, has been a significant historic landmark in the city of Wheeling. For many years the Capitol served as the home to Jamboree USA as well as to the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, and various musical, dance, and theater groups. The Theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the state of West Virginia’s largest theater.

In an effort to aid the restoration work at the Capitol Theater and give back to the local community Belmont College in collaboration with WNHAC (Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation) is pleased to announce that the College’s Building Preservation/Restoration (BPR) program students are currently working to restore the second story wooden windows on the front of the building. The students are focusing their labors on the large window above the marquee; this window is the largest and most complicated of all the windows on the Main Street elevation.

As with many historic buildings time, gravity, and Mother Nature play a role in their deterioration and restoration work is needed to reinstate these structures to their former glory. Belmont’s BPR students are prepared to do just that.

The restoration project at the Theater is being completed by the BPR program’s Doors & Windows class led by Belmont College BPR Instructor Cathie Senter. Ms. Senter is a preservationist with over twenty-five years of experience in the historic architecture field. Many of her building projects have received recognition and she has won the Historic Preservation Excellence Award from the American Institute of Architects. Senter is a graduate of the Belmont College Building Preservation/Restoration program and is working to complete a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Ball State University.

Students working on the window restoration are from the local area: Melody Cameron, Adena; Molly Dickerson, Wheeling; Brittney DiProsperis, St. Clairsville; Jacob Fetzer, Sarahsville; Katone Sims, Bridgeport; Cherryl Thompson, Steubenville.

“Because the Capitol Theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, all restoration work must follow the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation,” said Senter. “Compliance with the Standards will ensure that a high level of historic integrity is used while the restoration work is being completed.”

The Secretary of the Interior is responsible for establishing standards for all national preservation programs under Departmental authority and for advising Federal agencies on the preservation of historic properties listed or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

“We are excited to have Belmont College’s BPR students working on the Capitol Theatre windows this fall,” said Bekah Karelis, Historian for Wheeling National Heritage Area. “The Theater’s rear windows were recently restored by Allegheny Restoration who interestingly enough employs a number of Belmont BPR graduates. With that project complete and as part of a larger front façade restoration project, we were beginning to plan for the restoration of the second story wooden windows on the front of the building. It was perfect timing when Instructor Senter approached the Wheeling CVB (Convention and Visitor’s Bureau) about taking on a project for their Doors and Windows class.”

Karelis who is a 2007 Belmont College Building/Preservation Restoration graduate went on to say, “We so are glad to give Belmont College’s BPR students a chance to hone their skills on a local project!”

The scope of the restoration work will include:

  • Documentation both written and photographed of the existing conditions of the windows and frames.
  • Removal of exterior paint finishing down to bare wood.
  • Adding new primer and paint.
  • Repair or replacement of any deteriorated components as needed with either Dutchmans or epoxy consolidation methods.

According to Senter, emphasis will be placed on retaining as much of the original materials as possible by using the gentlest means possible. “Due to water and UV damage from the sun, the existing window sills are in fair to poor condition due to a significant amount of checks in the wood. We have removed the paint down to the bare wood and are treating the checks with epoxy consolidant.”

Additionally the students will be removing the window sashes which are quite significant in size (largest being 4’-8” wide by 9’-4” high) and transporting them back to the BPR labs for restoration work. To minimize any glass breakage, each pane of glass will be numbered and removed prior to removing the sashes from the Theatre. Working on the windows in the College's lab will facilitate a more thorough restoration process in a controlled environmental climate and a close proximity to the woodworking tools.

“Once the sashes are at the labs, we will remove the paint down to bare wood, treat the wood with a conditioner, make any repairs necessary, prime and paint,” said Senter. The students will thoroughly clean the glass and reinstall the panes back in their original locations. Similar to the window sills, the lower wood glazing stops have also be subjected to standing water and UV deterioration. We anticipate having to replicate the majority of those stops.”

This project will allow Belmont students the opportunity to analyze and apply preservation techniques associated with the repair, restoration, and maintenance of a historic window and its associated hardware. The students will also learn how to disassemble historic hardware, make repairs, and reinstall the hardware along with allowing them the ability to document the existing conditions pertaining to windows preservation methodology in regard to their conservation.

When asked how is this project will be beneficial to the future of the Capitol Theater Karelis said, “Since the Wheeling CVB purchased and re-opened the theatre it has been working to correct fire and safety issues, promoting the customer experience, and preserving the historic fabric of the old Theater. The wood windows on the front facade are in bad shape and no one really knows if they have been worked on since construction in 1928. For the students to restore the magnificent window above the marquee will greatly enhance the appearance from within the theater, and ensure the preservation of one of the major focal points of the structure’s magnificent front facade.

Belmont College Building Preservation/Restoration students stand on the Capitol Theater marquee flanking either side of the window they are restoring; left to right: Katone Sims;Brittney DiProperis; Melody Cameron; Cherryl Thompson; Molly Dickerson; and Instructor Cathie Senter. Not pictured is Jacob Fetzer.

Belmont College Building Preservation/Restoration students stand on the Capitol Theater marquee flanking either side of the window they are restoring; left to right: Katone Sims;Brittney DiProperis; Melody Cameron; Cherryl Thompson; Molly Dickerson; and Instructor Cathie Senter. Not pictured is Jacob Fetzer.

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