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Stage curtains reinstalled at Colfax Municipal Building

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — What is old can look new again.

Or at least it can look more like new …

The auditorium on the second floor of the Colfax Municipal Building has been the focus of much activity lately, including the re-installation of the stage curtains on April 4.

The Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group recently sent the curtains to a company in St. Paul to be cleaned — and were delighted to discover that the curtains were of an excellent quality and had been hand-stitched.

“We sent the old stage curtains to Coit Cleaners in St. Paul for professional cleaning.  We were lucky enough to find the old valance, which had disappeared,” said Joan Scharlau, a member of the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group.

“The (stage) curtains are in excellent condition as far as wear goes but were badly stained due to water leaking from the ceiling onto the stage. The cleaners could not guarantee being able to remove the stains, but they assured us they would hang much better and look much nicer. The drapes are of quality material and actually hand stitched. We were very surprised to find out about their quality being special,” Scharlau said.

Bryan Yantes, the representative for Coit Cleaners who delivered the drapes to Colfax and re-installed them, along with the valance, said the drapes had been cleaned by hand, but that in spite of their best efforts, they had been unable to completely remove all of the water stains.

Be that as it may, the stage curtains are believed to be at least 80 years old, and the fact that they can still be used at all and are in good condition is nothing short of amazing.

Marian Scott, president of the restoration group, confirmed that she had found the burgundy colored valance in the attic of the municipal building.

The valance had been folded up and stored in a box, Scott said.

The Colfax Municipal Building was built in 1915 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

New paint

The restoration group also recently arranged to have the Colfax Municipal Building auditorium painted.

“We are completely painting the theater. The colors chosen are white for the ceiling, which needed much repair, maroon for the wall area nearest to the ceiling, off white for the main wall, and green for the bottom part of the wall. The stage is painted a light bronze-brown color,” Scharlau explained.

“The colors were selected to correspond with the colors that were in the old theater which were maroon and green. The painting is being done by Perfection Painting of Colfax, Adam Burgraff and crew,” she said.

When the auditorium in the municipal building was used as a movie theater, it was known as the Cozy Theater.

CMBRG also is working with the village to remove the old heat radiators from the auditorium.

The radiators must be removed so the wall can be painted behind them, Scharlau said.

Once the radiators are out, the floor will need to be repaired when the pipes are disconnected, she said.

The burgundy paint in the theater matches the burgundy stripe in the stage curtains and the burgundy valance hung above the stage.

Clean up

Members of the restoration group have been working, too, on cleaning the second-floor auditorium.

“We have been removing a great deal of trash from the theater to get it ready for performances during National Library Week and National Preservation Week.  It seems the theater was used so often as a storage place for items that no one knew what to do with,” Scharlau said.

National Preservation week is the last week in April.

“We have tried to save many pieces of lumber, shelving and finished pieces of wood to reuse when we need new shelving or for finish work (woodwork) that still needs to be done.  We have stored most of this wood in the basement,” Scharlau said.

The old ticket room has a new look as well and is being used as the Colfax History Room.

“Scott Housenga did the work in this room consisting of removing all the old paneling, plastering and skim coating the walls, painting, and doing additional work refinishing woodwork. The floors were sanded and refinished by Mike Stuart of Boyceville.  We are very pleased with the result of the work done in this room,” Scharlau said.

Mike Robertson from Wheeler has washed the inside of all the windows, she said.

Electrical work

The Village of Colfax received a $183,000 energy efficiency grant as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and much of the money was used for a heating and cooling system for the municipal building along with brand new energy-efficient windows.

At the same time the other work was being completed, CMBRG volunteered to pay for electrical work in the building.

The restoration group spent about $100,000 on upgrading the Colfax Municipal Building’s electrical system and installing a new electrical system on the second floor for theater lighting.

“When the electrical was upgraded in the theater the original lighting was used. The wall sconces were rewired by Tarry Turner, and the hanging globe lights in the landing and the dressing room off the stage were rewired by Don Braaten,” Scott said.

The pan part of the ceiling lights in the theater were taken down and major cleaning was done by Eli Prince and finishing was done by Jon Scott. The globes for the theater lighting were found in the attic along with the valance for the stage curtain,” she said.

“One globe was missing, and the search was on for an identical replacement, which I finally located at an antique shop in Minnesota. I cleaned up all the globes, and the lighting in the theater ceiling was completed,” Scott said.

CMBRG also is planning to have the exterior windows cleaned and would like to refinish the floor in the old Cozy Theater.

“We have a bid for refinishing the floors in the theatre but are in need of additional funds … We are always looking for people to join our group,” Scott said. .