Strand Not Stranded
“So what’s going on with the Strand?”
I hear that question on occasion. Sometimes I even ask what progress is being made with the restoration.
The other afternoon I had the opportunity to join a tour conducted by Sylvia Stack, president of the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts (NCCCA for short). She has been a leading force behind returning the Strand Theatre to its former glory.
Located in the heart of downtown Plattsburgh, the Strand opened back in 1924 when admission to a movie was only one thin dime. Back then movies where silent but an orchestra provided sound.
Over the years trends have come and gone with movies and other forms of entertainment. Before it was purchased by the NCCCA, the heyday of the Strand seemed long past. The previous owners were unable to keep up with the maintenance such a huge building needs. After all, if only five people show up for a film, ticket sales aren’t going to cover all operating costs.
Inside the Strand signs of its age are obvious. Despite the peeling paint and crumbling plaster, there lies underneath an infrastructure worth saving, despite the considerable cost.
Some of the Strand’s old-fashioned charm had been covered up but now the architectural detail from its early days is revealed. Red draperies have been removed, revealing balcony boxes near the stage that I never knew existed. Detailed woodworking accented in silver adorns the balcony frames. On the flaking ceiling you can see where a magnificent chandelier once hung, gleaming.
But there is more to a building than historic architecture. The acoustics in the Strand are superior to the tinny sounds of that aircraft hanger by the lake, the white elephant called the Crete Center.
Walk through the Strand and you’ll see old seats torn out, piled up in the corner, waiting for replacements. No more playing musical chairs, trying to avoid that one spot with a coil spring ready to puncture your backside.
Some sections are being rebuilt or even restructured. Two-by- four frames wait for walls to be added. New wiring is being installed. There will be enough heat in the dead of winter so that you don’t have to wear your thermal underwear during an event.
And more is planned than just restoring the basic necessities. Elevators for people with disabilities will be installed. Even a grand chandelier will someday hang from the ceiling again.
At this point there’s evidence of progress being made. But there’s a long way to go yet. Painting and plastering – that job alone will take some time. A great old building needs a great new effort to restore it.