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Re: The CapitoL Theatre

Posted By: William Brainard <wbrainard@juno.com>
Date: Tuesday, 5 February 2002, at 6:50 a.m.

In Response To: The CapitoL Theatre (Charles Barrett)

When did the Capitol last show feature films? Wasn't it the mid 1970s? 

 

Posted By: nk <kellyn@easternct.edu>
Date: Tuesday, 5 February 2002, at 8:05 a.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (William Brainard)

It was in the mid to late 70's. I remember seeing a lot of Bruce Lee movies there at the end. 

 

Posted By: Ada Kerachsky Albright <aa19@cornell.edu>
Date: Monday, 11 February 2002, at 2:27 p.m.

In Response To: The CapitoL Theatre (Charles Barrett)

I agree that it would be very unfortunate to reconfigure the interior of the Capitol Theater. The historical significance, splendor and ambience should be retained. This could enhance the experience of the performers as well as the spectators. Other communities have wrestled with this problem and found creative solutions. Here, in Ithaca, NY, although we unfortunately did lose our wonderful Strand Theater, our State Theater is in a restoration process (see: http://www.historicithaca.com/). There are performances by the Ithaca Ballet and musical groups scheduled starting this week! Cornell University plans to use the facility as well, strengthening the "town-gown" relationship. I am told that Geneva, NY has renovated the Smith Opera House for use as a movie theater as well as live performances. There are many other success stories. I do hope that the integrity of the theater can be preserved. 

 

Posted By: vadaro <vadaro@cs.com>
Date: Monday, 11 February 2002, at 7:45 p.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (Ada Kerachsky Albright)

The ideal certainly would be to renovate and restore the Capitol Theater to its original state. However, in the real world the cost to do so would costs multiple millions and the Capitol Theater Development Corporation did not have a prayer for raising the necessary funding or volunteer membership to bring such a project to fruition. The water damage to the building has destroyed much of the interior theatre. EASTCONN made an offer to create a Magnet School for the Performing Arts for high school students from over thirty sending towns. EASTCONN was able to obtain State funding for the project which will use every available inch of space of the building which includes the store fronts on both sides. A lease was signed with EASTCONN and an architect has been hired. Bonding for the project has been approved by the State. The project must meet the approval of the State Board of Education. A gallery/musum area is planned off the main lobby which will contain items of the theater's history. The community will be able to use the theater house when it is not being used by the School. Unfortunately, the seating capacity has been reduced. It will be a smaller, more intimate theater. If the Capitol Theater Development Corp. had not gone this route, the building would have further deteriorated and probably be torn down. The Dev. Corp. has suggested to EASTCONN and the Architect that it wishes to have the interior of the theater be decorated as much as possible like the original. I,personally, am sorry that this can not be a restoration, but because the bottom line is always The Dollar, at least the building will be saved. It will be a first class reconstruction.

 

Posted By: Allen
Date: Monday, 11 February 2002, at 9:45 p.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (vadaro)

You do not know what you are talking about. Take a look around and see what other towns are doing. Look at the Warner Theatre in Torrington and what was accomplished there. You obviously are a member of the pack of sheep that have no understanding of what this issue is all about. You have fallen for the line alright.....

It's $17 million dollars worth of overkill...overkill. it will create a low risk, mediocre education for a handful of students at the expense of losing yet another beautiful historic downtown Willimantic jewel.

Wake up ! !

Allen Wilson

 

Posted By: Scorpio <Scorpio@threadcity.com>
Date: Wednesday, 13 February 2002, at 1:40 a.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (vadaro)

Who are the members of the Capitol Theater Development Group? Has any member of this group attempted to apply for a grant? 

 

Posted By: Allen
Date: Wednesday, 13 February 2002, at 11:09 a.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (Scorpio)

The local Capitol Theatre group members include:

Al Vertefeuille- chmn. Robin Rice Jack Nardi Leo Carey Etc., Etc. 

 

Posted By: Scorpio <Scorpio@threadcity.com>
Date: Wednesday, 13 February 2002, at 2:07 p.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (Allen)

Is this a civic organization? Open forums? Does it have specifically targeted goals that are open to public review? Does it have an informational website or other means of disseminating information to interested parties? Although these questions sound rhetorical, they should have substantive answers. Is there a good reason for the preservation of the Capitol Theater. If it is to be preserved, could it be transformed into a self-supporting private entity? EastConn certainly seems to have a self-serving reason for conscription. Location, existing structure, identification, and future growth. It will not put revenue into the public coffers or stimulate the local economy through new-job availability, and tax revenue. This is the same type of situation as a governmental land-grab that is so prevalent in the western sections of the country. I, and I am sure, many others are interested in learning more about this matter. Perhaps there are "angels" (investors) who may find this challenge of substantial interest. 

 

Posted By: nk <kellyn@easternct.edu>
Date: Wednesday, 13 February 2002, at 4:49 p.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (Scorpio)

Well, any interested parties better hurry up. David Calchera (Eastconn) announced on the radio today that the project would be out for bids by summer. 

 

Posted By: Scorpio <Scorpio@threadcity.com>
Date: Wednesday, 13 February 2002, at 9:42 p.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (nk)

I guess I don't have the full information. Does EastConn already own an option to the property? 

 

Posted By: Barbara Wright <wrightb@easternct.edu>
Date: Thursday, 14 February 2002, at 4:29 p.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (Scorpio)

EastConn does not have a purchase option. It does have a signed 30-year lease which gives it complete control over the property.

When conditions of the lease were under discussion, some members of the Capitol Theatre Development Corporation Board (myself included) asked for wording to protect the integrity of the theater. What would happen, I asked at one meeting, if students interested in theater arts failed to materialize? Could EastConn decide in 5 years to turn the Capitol Theatre into a magnet school for high performance sports and use the space as a gymnasium? Don't worry about that, I was told.

Board chair Al Vertefeuille insisted that we could not place any conditions on EastConn's use of the space; that EastConn director David Calchera HAD to have "complete control" or the state would be unwilling to fund the magnet school.

When I did some research on this question, I was told that normally "complete control" IS required -- but no magnet school in CT has ever been housed in a historic building before, either. An official at another regional educational service center or RESC (that's what EastConn is) told me that negotiation with the state in a special case like that of the Capitol Theatre WOULD be possible. But neither Al Vertefeuille nor David Calchera ever showed any desire to negotiate in the interests of preserving the theater. This never became a subject of discussion.

Capitol Theatre board members were given verbal assurances that the space would remain a theater. However, we did NOT expect it to become a 170-seat theater with nothing of the original stage, fly space, orchestra pit, auditorium or balcony left. Do I feel duped? You bet.

As for the argument that the school needs every inch of space under that roof, well, that too is something that Al Vertefeuille, David Calchera, the magnet school advisory board and their architects can either accept -- or try to do something about. There is plenty of space nearby: Eastern is about to turn the Nathan Hale Building over to the town, the Windham Theatre Guild will have space right across the street, the old Y building is under-utilized, and organizations like Arts in Motion might well be likely be willing to share their studios -- if they were asked. The point is that no one has even bothered to ask. When I urged these sorts of conversations, the idea of using neighboring space was dismissed out of hand as impractical.

It's a terrible irony that the magnet school, which was originally supported as a way to save the theater, is about to become the means by which the theater is destroyed.

It's equally ironic that this school, which was supposed to provide specialized training in technical theater, is going to be working with a stage even smaller and more modest than most high school auditorium facilities.

The ultimate irony is that a program in creative and performing arts is being implemented by people with so little creativity, so little sensitivity to the aesthetics of the building, so little willingness to take risks for the sake of a truly high-quality education in the arts. 

 

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (Scorpio)

EastConn does not have a purchase option. It does have a signed 30-year lease which gives it complete control over the property.

When conditions of the lease were under discussion, some members of the Capitol Theatre Development Corporation Board (myself included) asked for wording to protect the integrity of the theater. What would happen, I asked at one meeting, if students interested in theater arts failed to materialize? Could EastConn decide in 5 years to turn the Capitol Theatre into a magnet school for high performance sports and use the space as a gymnasium? Don't worry about that, I was told.

Board chair Al Vertefeuille insisted that we could not place any conditions on EastConn's use of the space; that EastConn director David Calchera HAD to have "complete control" or the state would be unwilling to fund the magnet school.

When I did some research on this question, I was told that normally "complete control" IS required -- but no magnet school in CT has ever been housed in a historic building before, either. An official at another regional educational service center or RESC (that's what EastConn is) told me that negotiation with the state in a special case like that of the Capitol Theatre WOULD be possible. But neither Al Vertefeuille nor David Calchera ever showed any desire to negotiate in the interests of preserving the theater. This never became a subject of discussion.

Capitol Theatre board members were given verbal assurances that the space would remain a theater. However, we did NOT expect it to become a 170-seat theater with nothing of the original stage, fly space, orchestra pit, auditorium or balcony left. Do I feel duped? You bet.

As for the argument that the school needs every inch of space under that roof, well, that too is something that Al Vertefeuille, David Calchera, the magnet school advisory board and their architects can either accept -- or try to do something about. There is plenty of space nearby: Eastern is about to turn the Nathan Hale Building over to the town, the Windham Theatre Guild will have space right across the street, the old Y building is under-utilized, and organizations like Arts in Motion might well be likely be willing to share their studios -- if they were asked. The point is that no one has even bothered to ask. When I urged these sorts of conversations, the idea of using neighboring space was dismissed out of hand as impractical.

It's a terrible irony that the magnet school, which was originally supported as a way to save the theater, is about to become the means by which the theater is destroyed.

It's equally ironic that this school, which was supposed to provide specialized training in technical theater, is going to be working with a stage even smaller and more modest than most high school auditorium facilities.

The ultimate irony is that a program in creative and performing arts is being implemented by people with so little creativity, so little sensitivity to the aesthetics of the building, so little willingness to take risks for the sake of a truly high-quality education in the arts. 

 

Posted By: Scorpio <Scorpio@threadcity.com>
Date: Friday, 15 February 2002, at 12:44 a.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (Barbara Wright)

It appears from implications made in some of these messages regarding actions of the both parties instrumental in negotiation of the lease, and possible violation of strict requirement of fiduciary responsibility of those parties, that there may be grounds for extinguishment of the lease agreement. Any Connecticut Real Estate Lawyers out there? 

 

Posted By: Barbara Wright <wrightb@easternct.edu>
Date: Friday, 15 February 2002, at 11:55 a.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (Scorpio)

The question of fiduciary responsibility is an interesting one. When this subject came up in Capitol Theatre Board meetings, chair Al Vertefeuille insisted that the board's fiduciary responsibility was to get the building renovated and re-occupied. Period. According to him, HOW it would be renovated or reoccupied was not specified in our charge. 

 

Posted By: Barbara Wright <wrightb@easternct.edu>
Date: Friday, 15 February 2002, at 11:55 a.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (Scorpio)

The question of fiduciary responsibility is an interesting one. When this subject came up in Capitol Theatre Board meetings, chair Al Vertefeuille insisted that the board's fiduciary responsibility was to get the building renovated and re-occupied. Period. According to him, HOW it would be renovated or reoccupied was not specified in our charge. 

 

Posted By: Scorpio <Scorpio@threadcity.com>
Date: Friday, 15 February 2002, at 12:09 p.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (Barbara Wright)

Mr. Vertifeuille's statement reflects what the goal of the committee may have been, but does not reflect the fiduciary responsibility that may have been implied or directed by the beneficiary that invoked that commission upon the committee that he chairs. The beneficiary, unknown to me, may be the taxpayers of Windham. 

 

Posted By: Shemp
Date: Monday, 18 February 2002, at 12:23 a.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (Scorpio)

scorpio:

you bring up a very curious legal point. this appears to be an unsavory, usorial covenant...and it may come back to haunt them.

have turned this over to a proper legal mind in hartford for reviewing. this man is a top lawyer in the state capitol.

let's hope for their sake they have a good insurance policy -- collectively and individually.

thank you

shemp 

 

Posted By: Virginia Darrow <vadaro@cs.com>
Date: Thursday, 21 March 2002, at 6:30 a.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre 

 I am a member of the Capital Theater Development Corporation Board of Directors. While I mourn the loss of the restoration of the theater house and feel that the architects could have been more sensitive to that aspect of the renovation, I am convinced that the magnet school is the only way to go. There have been no other specific plans put forth. Attempts to raise funds through a number of fund raising efforts have not provided enough funds to meet the ongoing expenses of the Corporation. Without Eastconn assuming responsibility, the Corporation will be unable to meet its financial obligations, i.e., insurance, taxes, loan to Town of Windham, etc.

The building is not going to be destroyed. As a matter of fact, the building will be saved. For the most part, it will be gutted and certainly the facade will be improved. There have been two attempts to bring movie houses to this area - the theater in Storrs and the Jillson Square Theater. Both have failed. The region does not support a movie house. I believe to try to raise funds to restore and support the Capital Theater is not realistic. The area simply will not support it and there are no deep pockets in the area to become "angels". At the onset, I am sure it was hoped that the Capitol would be home for the Windham Theatre Guild. Obviously, upon looking at the cost of renovation/restoration, the Guild decided it was not feasible and is engaged in its project to acquire the old CBT building.

Another consideration is parking. For all of my nearly sixty years in Wmtc. parking has been an issue. With restaurants in the area serving evening meals, and the govenment having evening meetings, there would not be enough parking available to accommodate a fully restored theater house. The magnet school, on the other hand, will drop off and pick up students by bus, either in front of the theater or on the road behind the theater. With reduced seating in the house, parking may be tight, but it will be doable.

Also, Eastconn has hired an individual to be a coordinator between the school and the public. The renovated theater will be available for public use when not being used by the school. The public will not be denied access at appropriate times.

 

Posted By: Scorpio <Scorpio@threadcity.com>
Date: Thursday, 21 March 2002, at 12:59 p.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (Virginia Darrow)

Thank you. This is the first rational explanation that I have heard regarding this whole situation, which appears to be kindling for much emotional rhetoric. Many of us have ties to "Old Willimantic," but that place only exists in our nostalgic nooks and crannies. For many of us who participate in this forum, myself included, the Capitol Theater is an icon of our lost years and a symbol of "coming-home" to, perhaps, happier times in our lives. I can recall, quite vividly, Mr. Barrett, dressed in his suit, tearing tickets and scrutinizing his young patrons as they ran, unruly, toward the candy counter for their supply of candies and popcorn. I remember the Saturday morning specials and the Christmas parties that he prepared for the kids of the area. I remember, too, standing in a roped-line for an hour with my favorite aunt to be admitted to see the latest blockbuster movie, "Meet Me in St. Louis."

I'm sure many of us have sporadic flashes-back to times like these. It is quite natural that we don't want those times dissolved from our lives. Through the years each of us has evolved to a new being. Apparently, so must the Capitol Theater. Perhaps the architects could be pursuaded to restore the facade of the old theater in some way to commemorate the building as the landmark that it is to many people who do have ties to the "Old Willimantic." Just a thought! 

 

Posted By: Virginia Darrow <vadaro@cs.com>
Date: Friday, 22 March 2002, at 8:52 a.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (Scorpio)

I agree most emphatically. I, too, have fond memories of much happiness at the Capitol. However, the bottom line is, as Lenny says, money. Without money to do a restoration, and it will take upwards of $10 million, the building will further deteriorate and eventually fall in on itself. Unfortunately, save the theater rhetoric is fruitless unless backed by a concrete, well-financed business plan for saving it. In the zoning meeting last night, none of the save it contingent was able to fulfill that need.

Yes, the building will be still recognizable as the Capitol. The name will be incorporated in it. The outside will be refreshed and be more attractive. The marquee will be replaced and updated with electronic messaging. A vertical sign over the marquee will identify the building as the magnet school/theater.

As it stands now the building is uninhabitable. The Corporation was unable to realize any money from renting the retail/office spaces because the building does not meet building code standards and we were unable to obtain certificates of occupancy.

The Zoning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals has granted the necessary approvals. I feel no sense of triumph, sadness over the loss of the house as it was and relief that the building is going to be saved. Another benefit of the magnet school is that it will be training young people for potential employment in theater arts which they would not get at area schools at the junior and senior high school levels. The planned curriculum is exciting and state-of-the-art technology-wise and the building will meet the needs of the curriculum.

As you said so eloquently, it is time to relegate nostalgia to its normal place in life and move into the future for the sake of children and the community. For those of you who have not been "home" for many years, downtown Willimantic would not be recognizable were you to be here now. Since the advent of shopping malls and changing population demographics, things are not the same, nor do they look the same. But things are improving gradually. Each new project brings still more positive changes. The Frog Bridge, the absolutely gorgeous Thread Mill buildings, and a renewed interest in the Victorian Neighborhoods (Victorian House Tour Weekend, June 1 & 2, 2002) in the city have brought much attention to Windham/Willimantic, for instance.
Messages In Th

 

Posted By: Lenny <harvey2000@cfl.rr.com>
Date: Thursday, 21 March 2002, at 5:30 p.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (Virginia Darrow)

I am no longer living in willimantic, but I hold fond memory of the Capital theatre. It is the last of a lost breed. I will mourn its lose. While I found Shemps comments to be, well frankly to be childish, I have to say I agree with him. Those that would convert the grand old (and last in town) in the way they are talking are just wrong, but many wrong things get done in the name of progress, then years later we lament their lose as if there was nothing we could have done at the time. KEEP up the fight, save the Capitol, it is all about money, it always is. 

 

Posted By: ROBERT THOMPSON <THOMPSON.ROBERT@TUCSON.VA.GOV>
Date: Wednesday, 27 March 2002, at 10:28 a.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (Shemp)

It is to bad the Capitol has to go the route of the rest of Willi. A few yrs. ago I was back visiting my old home town with my youngest son & I told him than that the old saying is true-you can never go home again. Much of my history of Willi has gone with the redevelop that took place back in the 70's. A cousin of mine wrote me when all this was going on. She was from Covetry & said everytime I go to Willi I want to cry. I couldn't understand why until a few years later when I came to Willie. I to wanted to cry. I

realized than that my youth was gone forever. 

 

Re: The CapitoL Theatre

Posted By: Wendi Clark <thequeenbea2001@hotmail.com>
Date: Saturday, 30 March 2002, at 11:54 a.m.

In Response To: Re: The CapitoL Theatre (Shemp)

I just love you Mr. Shemp!!! I wish I had the honor of meeting you. You say it like it is and so do I... Too bad about The Capitol Theatre, the ties as you called them think that they know it all...... Only time will tell I guess. In a earlier post Ms. Darrow stated that there was no interest in having a theatre in the area. WRONG!!! The Jillson was just purchased and is reopening. Oops Ms. Darrow... check it out!!! And Mr. Shemp as far as those frogs go...eeeeeewwwwww!!! I have stated on other posts it looks like the frogs are pooping on the columns they are standing on, all that green stuff running down. Looks like %$#* to me!!!