STEUBENVILLE - Scott Dressel stood in the rain for nearly 11 hours Saturday watching two volunteers power wash the front exterior wall of his beloved Grand Theater building.
"I'm glad we are getting that white paint off the old bricks and bringing back the original appearance. This is a lot of work today but it is worth it. What you see is the original brick that was used by the Griesinger family more than 130 years ago when they built the structures that was their home and several businesses," Dressel said.
Howard Moore and Jake Delagrande worked from their perch in a high-lift basket maneuvering a power washer wand back and forth across the brick facade.
RESTORING THE ORIGINAL APPEARANCE — Jake Delagrande, left, used a power washer to clean white paint off of the Grand Theater front facade Saturday while Howard Moore operated the high-lift basket. The two men completed the removal of the paint after an 11-hour work day. The next step in the restoration project will start in the spring when the brick work is re-pointed. The project was made possible through a financial contribution from the family of the late Dan Olexia of Weirton. -- Dave Gossett
"The paint is coming off pretty easily. After they are done we will let the wall be washed by the rain and winter snow and will return to the exterior wall in the spring to do some pointing where mortar is needed. Maybe 5 percent of the brick wall needs pointed. The quality of the original brick wall is pretty remarkable," continued Dressel.
Dressel said the family of the late Dan Olexia of Weirton donated to the facade restoration project and funded a series of photos installed above the front windows of an adjacent building.
"Mark Nelson of Nelson Fine Arts and Gifts created the sepia toned photographs and we will be able to change them in the future. But at this point they are a pictorial history of the Grand Theater when it was truly a grand business in downtown Steubenville," Dressel explained.
"Restoring the front facade will cost maybe $50,000. Our next step will be removing the siding that covers the lower part of the front wall and fixing whatever is behind that siding. We also want to replace the third floor windows and hopefully restore the second floor windows. Replacing the original sign and marquee will be about $400,000, so that is a ways off," he said.
"At some point in the future I hope to approach the city planners and ask them to consider revising their sign code. If you look at the older photos of the downtown business district, almost every store front has a larger business sign. If we could do that again in future years I think it will really help light up the downtown again," remarked Dressel.
He and his volunteers have completed painting the front of an adjacent building using a Sherwin-Williams Rockwood Red color that was created in the 1890s.
"We are slowly bringing the historical look back to this section of our downtown. We have a great history in downtown Steubenville, and I am seeing a lot of people stop by today to check out our work and to talk about the downtown of their youth. Yes, I am still looking at another 10 years of work to complete the restoration of the Grand Theater. But it is worth it. And if we can find a major donor to contribute to the project we can get the work done faster," noted Dressel.
He said the front of the theater looks more authentic with the original brick wall and the lighted vertical and horizontal Grand Theater signs.
Since assuming ownership of the theater Dressel has coordinated the sealing of the leaking roof, removing the main floor auditorium seats and cleaning the interior of the building.
Volunteers also have restored the lobby of the theater with paint and new carpeting.
"Sometimes we are too quick to tear down the old historical buildings because of their poor conditions. It will be nice to save a piece of Steubenville's history for a change. I have never lost a project once I started a restoration. I don't want to start now," said Dressel.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)