The little theatre that could

Theater embarks on restoration project

By Ryan Cornell

WINCHESTER — Once used as a freight station for trains carrying the likes of John Handley and Charles Broadway Rouss, the building now home to the Winchester Little Theatre is getting its due.

City officials and community supporters gathered at the theater on Sunday to commemorate its designation as a historic building and kick off its new restoration project.

The theater is raising funds to restore the roof and masonry of its 120-year-old structure, located at 315 W. Boscawen St.

Speaking to a crowd on Sunday, Winchester Mayor Elizabeth Minor installed the theater’s new historic building plaque and praised the importance of the old Pennsylvania Railroad freight station.

“They [trains] carried Winchester’s two most notable benefactors,” she said. “Handley left us a wonderful library and Rouss gave us City Hall.”

The theater’s board of directors aims to raise $650,000 to fund all of its needed repairs. Currently, funds are nearing $300,000.

Repairs include upgrading the structural roof framing, restoring the masonry and installing a new slate roof, said David Logan, owner of Vintage Inc., the restoration carpentry company doing the work.

“Inside the brick walls, there are rafters that make up a triangle,” he said. “They are failing and they need to be strengthened, and tied into these overhang brackets so the whole thing structurally becomes one unit.

“This building was built with traditional lime mortar, which is the very best, so we’re going back with lime mortar.”

Logan said work might begin before winter, though the major work will start next spring.

“It’s a beautiful building,” he said. “It’s really been fairly neglected since it was built and only an old building can handle that. It needs a major renovation every 100 years or so.”

The Winchester Little Theatre has served the community out of the former freight station since 1974.

Several guests attending the event had stories of how the theater touched their lives.

Joy Kirk, a supporter of the theater for years, shared how her friends brought her to a play on her 31st birthday and convinced her to audition for a part. She didn’t land the role, but ended up working backstage as a “prop mistress” and meeting the light man.

“Thirteen years later, he’s my husband,” she said. “Eight years ago, we got married on this stage. That’s what the Little Theatre is all about.”

According to the website for Winchester zoning and inspections, historic building plaques give recognition to those buildings that constitute an important physical feature of Winchester’s heritage.

The Winchester Little Theatre is historic building plaque number 151.

To donate to the theater’s restoration campaign, visit their website at http://www.goo.gl/H6AvRr.