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Theatre Reveals1901 Dome Art

Music Hall dome art/


The past is coming back to life at the Portsmouth Music Hall. A New York restoration team is uncovering the Victorian decorative art hidden behind layers of modern paint. The oldest surviving theatre in NH is looking more like its old self every day.  





READ ABOUT: Another Portsmouth Mural

The Music Hall continues to make astounding new "finds" in the discovery process of its historic restoration. Last year the oldest surviving theatre in New Hampshire unveiled the restored grand proscenium arch, Now the designated "American Treasure," has begun restoring its expansive dome. The stained and water damaged ceiling already has an exciting new look with large sections stripped to reveal the original neo-classic decorations, scrolls and patterned designs.

In the past few days whole sections of ceiling, including Roman-style figures, have been brought to life. Even professionals in the business are amazed by the imagery.

"This is the largest and most flamboyant decorative element I’ve ever had the pleasure of uncovering," says architectural conservator Bryon Roesselet. "And, I’ve been doing this for 17 years."

See another Painted Portsmouth Dome
from the Frank Jones Era
at Wentworth by the Sea

Roesselet, a principle of Evergreene Painting Studio of New York has been working on the dome with colleague Kumiko Hisano. The pair specialize in the conservation of fine art and architectural ornament, especially decorative marble painting and metals. They work primarily with museums, private institutions, theaters, opera houses, and federal and municipal buildings. Among the New York has completed projects at the U.S. Capitol; the Lincoln Memorial, the New York Public Library, the American Museum of Natural History and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Music hall neoclassical dome art uncovered in January 2007 / PMH photo on

As the decorative layers are being revealed, Music Hall administrators have chosen to reschedule several major projects, allowing for a comprehensive restoration of the auditorium this coming summer.

Over the next several months, Music Hall patrons will be able to view the work in progress. The theater will close in August for several weeks of final restoration work before the restored dome and historic finishes on the balcony rail and walls are unveiled in September 2007.

"This theater holds so many wonderful secrets, and the process of restoration is bringing them all forward," says board president Gail VanHoy Carolan. "The Music Hall’s historic beauty is a tangible asset for the community – a great source of pride and a real draw for visitors. The theater fully restored to its 1901 splendor will add enormously to this equation."

In an equally important discovery, The Music Hall has learned from recent engineering reports that there are no structural beams standing in the way of a sizeable expansion of the lower lobby. The small downstairs lobby can be extended back through the box office and under the stage to increase its size four to five times.

"This windfall of available space in our own building gives architect John Merkle the opportunity to design a new lobby that truly complements the design of our historic theater," according to Doug Nelson of the Music Hall. Nelson says this makes possible "a social and visually pleasing gathering space that The Music Hall and the community deserve."

The rehabilitation and expansion of the lobby, including concessions, bathrooms, and casual seatng areas are bound to please patrons. Music Hall visitors are currently caught in bottleneck in the tight space. Lobbies have become difficult to navigable during intermissions.

Executive Director Patricia Lynch says the top priority is to fully reveal the stunning historic interior of the auditorium in time for the season launch in the fall.

Evergreene Painting Studio of New York at Portsmouth Music Hall/ PMH photo on

Neoclassic decoation uncovered at Portsmouth Music Hall in 2007 / Posted on

Photos by Mike Marchand

The Seacoast’s Premier Performing Arts Center

The Music Hall is a non-profit performing arts center that entertains 94,000 patrons annually - including 20,000 school age children - with acclaimed film, music, theater, and dance performances. The historic 900-seat theater, built in 1878, is the oldest in New Hampshire, the second oldest in New England, and the fourteenth oldest operating in the United States. Designated by the U.S. Senate as "An American Treasure" in the national Save America's Treasures Program through the National Park Service, The Music Hall is embarking on a major restoration project to restore and improve the historic theater. In addition to its own diverse programming, The Music Hall hosts numerous community benefits and celebrations. A cultural anchor in a thriving Seacoast economy, the Music Hall - and its patrons - pumps $4.1 million into the local economy through show and visitor related spending.

OUTSIDE LINK: Portsmouth Music Hall web site

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018 
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