Historic Makeover Takes Center Stage for Paramount & Stateside Preservation Efforts

The 1915 façade of the Paramount Theatre and the 1935 Stateside marquee blade are vibrant landmarks of the Congress Avenue National Historic District. Preservation and rehabilitation of these significant jewels are a crucial part of Austin’s history. Due to the generous support of the Austin Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, Fath Charitable Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. William D. Schwarzer Sr. and other individuals in the community, the Austin Theatre Alliance, parent company of the Paramount and Stateside Theatres, is primed to start major restoration and rehabilitation -of these and other projects at these two iconic buildings.

In mid-August work will begin to completely restore the Stateside Theatre’s neon blade.  The neon sign on Congress Avenue suffers from poor weather-proofing, water infiltration, exposed transformers, non-functioning neon, and rust. The scope of the project includes major electrical work and involves removing the letters and panels from one side of the sign to gain access.  All transformers and wiring will be replaced and electrical circuits will be rerouted. In addition to the electrical work, the sign’s existing porcelain finish will be cleaned and polished and any chipped areas repainted. Damaged cathode tubing will be replaced and missing neon will be remade.  Ion Art, Inc. will consult with vintage sign historian and restoration expert Todd Sanders of Road House Relics, who will oversee and approve the restoration methods.

Ion Art was founded in 1986 by husband and wife team Greg and Sharon Keshishian.  Since then, the company has grown into an Austin landmark, in its own right, expanding into the design and custom fabrication of sculptures, water features, and architectural décor. Todd Sanders is an Austin, Texas based artist who specializes in vintage-inspired neon designs. With a personal collection of hundreds of old neon sign magazines and books from the 1920s through 1960s, Todd has given himself a masters education in neon art through rigorous study and dedication to the craft. With almost two decades of experience, his knowledge of typography, style, and craftsmanship of vintage signs is uniquely self-taught. Each painstaking step – from sketching, to creating the metal, neon and paint patterns, to custom weathering and patina – creates a work of art that pays homage to the past without sacrificing modern sensibilities.

The Paramount Theatre will also soon receive a facelift as theatre’s stone and brick receive significant attention. The building has not received significant attention in over 40 years and suffers from damaged stone, eroding mortar joints, and broken, cracked, and perforated brick.  We will replace all damaged brick, and stain an estimated 205 new red and black bricks to highlight the façade’s original contrast in coloration. We will also re-grout the joints using original tooling methods and bond the new mortar to the existing grout. The process will protect the façade from moisture and increase the building’s energy efficiency.
In other news: The Paramount has more than 30 years of high-occupancy wear-and-tear since its last major restoration and we remain continually challenged to meet the needs of our aging infrastructure. Most of the theatre’s heating and air conditioning systems were installed in 1979 and we are methodically replacing these antiquated systems. We are also installing a major upgrade to the Paramount auditorium’s lighting system. The new lighting will provide a cleaner, sharper, brighter, and more professional staging of all of our events. These preservation projects directly address items on our long term maintenance plan.

The Paramount and Stateside Theatres are investing in this historic section of Congress Avenue and participating in major preservation work to ensure the Theatres will be here for the community to enjoy for generations.  For more info on this project or how you can help, contact Lori Martin, Director of Development, at 512.692.0534 or lmartin@austintheatre.org.