Restoration of an American Treasure

May 2, 2012

For decades, the historic Orpheum Theater in St. Louis saw heavy use when it was known as the American Theater. Rock concerts, Broadway shows and other attractions constantly packed the 1917 masterpiece. But at the same time, its elegant Beaux Arts exterior long lacked sufficient maintenance, and was showing considerable wear and tear from the area’s oppressively humid summers and Chicago-class winters.

Fortunately, new owners Mike and Steve Roberts had a vision for the American. Which included restoring the theater to its original elegance – as well as its original name: The Orpheum.

The brothers’ first move was to hire restoration experts Wollenberg Building Conservation, LLC to ensure they did all that was possible for the historic landmark. From there the team hired world renown Alberici Constructors, installation contractors Superior Waterproofing & Restoration Company, casting contractor Phillips Interior/Exterior Systems and, in turn, enthusiastically approved ArcusStonecoat™ for the restoration of the building’s exterior, from local ArcusStone® distributor, Ceiling Supply.

Among the key factors in deciding upon ArcusStonecoat was a sudden race to complete the restoration before losing sizeable Federal tax credits for architectural preservation. The fact that ArcusStonecoat would save the project a lot of time was a big benefit. That it would also save money over the purchase and installation of the much heavier terra cotta was a mere bonus – but a nice one. And finally, the project’s decision makers were buoyed by the confidence of supervising applicator Foster Glenn that ArcusStonecoat could provide them with exact replicas for the building’s numerous missing sculptural pieces.

All that said, Foster knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the park. First there was the job of making castings from the original 1917 terra cotta installations some four stories up. Superior’s experts helped make that happen. Then came weeks of off-site experimentation with color, formulation and finishes – aided by ArcusStone distributor Mike Welch and ArcusStone’s Technical Director Bill Tott – to arrive at the perfect match of old stone and new. Finally, each individual piece was carefully cast and cured over the optimum period of time, then brought to the site for installation by Superior’s crew high above busy 9th street.

The results, as seen in before and after photos, speak for themselves.

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