Tonawanda News

October 31, 2013

Riviera marquee removed for restoration

By Amy Wallace
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The Riviera Theatre and Performing Arts Center in North Tonawanda began its planned Marquee Restoration Project Monday with the removal of the historic 1947 marquee. 

The two-day project is the end of a three-year fundraising effort to restore the marquee to its original glory while giving it some much needed technological improvements.

“It will take about two to three months for the work to be complete,” said the Riviera Theatre’s Director of Development Gary J. Rouleau. “We’ve done some patch work here and there but this will be the first restoration in 66 years.”

General Contractor Peyton Barlow Co., and the Wagner Electric Sign Company will begin the formal restoration of the theatre’s marquee at the Wagner factory in Elyria, Ohio.

The marquee is currently making the trip to Elyria on an open, flatbed truck after being painstakingly removed Tuesday. Rouleau said he was not concerned about the historic marquee’s safe arrival.

“Wagner does this for a living, restoring historic signs,” Rouleau said. “It’s a sign that’s made to be outside. It’s great, probably hundreds of people will see the Riviera sign as it drives by (on its way to Ohio).”

As a historic site, although the building’s marquee will get a state-of-the-art restoration, the theater had to work with the New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation to make sure it was restored to its original look. 

The marquee restoration will include restoring neon lights, chasing lights throughout the marquee in the original pattern, metal restoration, painting, new wiring and new electronics including LED display panels.

“The neon is going to be put back on which hasn’t been on in decades,” Rouleau said.

According to Rouleau, the LED panel will not display videos and will just mimic the original black lettering on the marquee.

“Having volunteers climb up ladders in the middle of a snow storm in January, and possibly having them fall off those ladders, to change letters is not the best,” Rouleau said.

Temporary signage will be in place during the restoration project and theater will be open during the process, scheduled for completion in early 2014.

Many residents and onlookers came out to see the marquee come down over the two-day process.

“It’s a big deal to the community,” Rouleau said. “Lots of people came out to see it and take pictures.”

Reinstallation of the restored marquee is scheduled for early 2014. Frey Electric Co. is working on electrical infrastructure updates to the theater in preparation for the restored marquee.  

With the theater as an anchor, the Webster Street Canal Corridor has seen a resurgence of economic development activity over the past several years with many new restaurants and business opening.  

“The restoration is a great symbol of the resurgence of the Canal Corridor,” Rouleau said.

The project was funded by The New York State Office Of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation; The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation; The Grigg-Lewis Foundation, Inc. and donations from the community.