Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saving a Landmark

We cringe when we learn how historic buildings were "modernized" by painting over murals and elaborate decorative components to a structure. We are saddened when such historic buildings are left to the elements for decades. We marvel at the beauty revealed by meticulous restoration of a city's architectural characters. In the course of a tour of the Uptown Theatre with Cynthia Langlois-Yallop, we touched on all these emotions.

In our walk around the historic residential areas of Napa, the brilliant exterior of the city's theatrical gem shown like a beacon against the deep blue sky, summoning us to the entrance.

The intricate detail work near the theater's entrance on Third Street was only a hint of the artistic touches that awaited us inside this structure that dated back to 1937.

The art deco decorative touches are present in the lobby--today.

Restoration work uncovered the artwork over the entrances to the house

and on the ceiling. The light fixtures are similar to the original ones.

When the 1,400-seat theater opened, it was the place to be in Napa for decades. One of the present partners remembers it as "the magnet of the city."

While looking at the stage from the back row of the theater, try to imagine the theater being divided down the center into two theaters. That dramatic change--the two theaters being separated by plain sheet rock walls--came in 1973.

In 1986, thirteen years later, it was again divided into four theaters. The front row of the two theaters in the back half (where the railings are in the photo, above) were mere inches from the screen.

Now imagine this mural

and the proscenium being painted blue.

A false ceiling covered the artwork on the ceiling.

By 2000, attendance was down and equipment did not work. In that year, the theater closed.

Local businessmen founded the non-profit Napa Valley Film Society and along with fellow investors, including Francis Ford Coppola and Margrit Mondavi, joined forces to totally restore the art deco theater to its former glory.

The Uptown will now hold 860 people in one theater furnished with plush French- made theater seats. Murals on walls and ceiling have been painstakingly restored, and an authentically restored marquee is now in place outside the theater.

In the photo above at the far left of the beige strip on the ceiling is a round reddish design. The photo on the right is a close-up of that design; it shows a cameo of a child. (The photo is horizontal to keep the same orientation as in the photo two photos above.)

This photo (left) shows other details on the ceiling.

Finally, these last two photos show some artistic details along the walls of the theater.

It's very gratifying to know there are people with a vision of what an old, deteriorated structure can become-- and, of course, with the money to realize the vision.
[Gabe Meline at and Cynthia Langlois-Yallop]

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