The Academy of Music Theatre is living testimony to the extraordinary craftsmen that went into its construction well over a century ago. Although there is damage to both the interior and exterior of the theatre, its walls are still standing, floors are secure, balconies relatively intact, and roof is still in place. Much work has already been completed.
UNIQUE SET OF CHALLENGES
While no historic theatre restoration is easy, the Academy of Music project is viewed by our combined team of architects, contractors and venue operations experts as being as unique a challenge as they’ve ever seen.
Our two primary challenges have nothing to do with the original design or construction of the structure. Nor does it have anything to do with the condition of the building as we find it today. While the theatre’s exterior shows a half century of deterioration, this is little more than a cosmetic problem and the easiest to fix. The theatre’s “bones” are for the most part intact, though in need of significant stabilization and repair. The elements of this project which call upon the team to engage their greatest creativity and drive are the facts that A) the restored theatre must function within an existing active complex surrounding it and B) the theatre is built on the side of a steep hill.
Virtually all restored theatres exist as self-contained entities. Their systems, needs and capabilities are all fully enclosed within their own walls. However in the Academy’s case, the restored theatre will be adjoined by new spaces providing a main lobby, bathrooms and lounge areas which will allow it to meet the requirements of efficient event management, the comfort and habits of modern theatregoers and municipal regulations.
Equally challenging is the land upon which the Academy of Music Theatre was built. Just a few feet past the original entrance, the ground begins to steeply decline, to the degree that street level at the front of the structure becomes the third floor at the back where it attaches to the Warehouse Theatre building. This condition allows us to build dressing rooms and support systems below the auditorium and stage without the considerable excavation normally required. Even though that advantage is recognized, the design phase becomes more complex.
A WORK IN PROGRESS
Though not visible from the street, a tremendous amount of work has already been completed.
Previous work includes:
-Acquisition and stabilization of the Academy of Music Theatre
-Reconstruction of the Academy of Music Theatre’s
stage house, fly tower and stage
-Purchase of the Price & Clements Building
-Creation of the 340-seat 5,000 square foot
Joy & Lynch Christian Warehouse Theatre
-Creation of A&E studio, classroom, gallery
and administrative spaces
-Creation of the pottery studio
-Purchase of the Lynchburg Gas Company Building (Administration building)
-Renovation of Academy galleries
-Completion of approximately 80% of architectural and engineering plans for the complex
Much work is anticipated now. A visit to Main Street now reveals the return of the Academy’s vintage 1946 marquee, at the time an amalgam of the canopy which covered the entrance in 1912 and postwar neon design. This work was funded by generous grants from Lynch’s Landing and Virginia Main Streets, for which we are enormously grateful.
THE FINISHED PRODUCT
From the most intricate touring theatrical production to the simplest requirements of community theatre and everything in between, the reborn Academy of Music Theatre is designed to present the very best in live entertainment in a warm environment which will bring the patron back to days long gone… to the days when the saying was, “The show begins on the sidewalk.”