Help us restore
The Paragon Theatre
and become a part of the building's story forever!
Restoring old buildings always turns up problems you don't expect.
We knew we had a problem with the floor but were shocked to find out what was causing it and how urgent the situation had become.
When we bought The Paragon in July 2017, there were some cracks in the concrete floor and we could see that it was sinking in places but as there was no access, we assumed that there was probably water getting in underneath the concrete slab and washing the soil away in places. What else could it be, right?
Over winter we noticed that it was getting worse and new, significant cracks had appeared.
We had to investigate so we engaged Deep Pinning, engineers from Hobart to find out exactly what was happening. They came and drilled some holes in the slab and what they discovered was beyond belief.
The original floor, built in 1933 was timber. It was tiered down from the foyer to about 1/3 of the way down the hall. The rest of the floor was flat. In 1985, when the theatre closed, it was repurposed as an indoor cricket stadium and this is where the problem began. The tiered part of the timber floor was removed and the cavity filled with slag from the mine. The remaining timber floor was left in place. The whole lot was covered in plastic and the concrete slab poured on top. Thankfully, the concrete was reinforced and for some unknown reason they decided to put about half a dozen random concrete stumps under the slab, mostly down one side.
Over the 33 years since then, the timber floor had slowly decayed until now it had completely collapsed, leaving 2/3 of our beautiful hand-painted floor virtually suspended in mid-air. The engineers advised us to remove everything off that part of the floor and stay off it as much as possible. So now the race was on to get it fixed before it collapsed completely and to enable us to
Queenstown's wonderful festival, The Unconformity, wanted to use the theatre as the main entertainment venue on October 19-21, 2018, hosting Jeff Lang on the Friday evening and Mark Seymour & The Undertow on the Saturday night. Neither of these events could happen without the floor being fixed. It would not cope with the weight of a stage, band equipment and 400 concert goers. It just had to be fixed!
Fixing the floor involved drilling 134 holes, 162mm diameter, throughout the floor. Steel rebar/rods were then driven down to bedrock, up to 22metres in some spots, and a concrete base formed on the ground around that. The floor was then jacked up to the original level, held in place by more steel rods and more concrete pumped in around that to set as permanent stumps. This will ensure that it stays strong forever. It was quite an amazing process to watch.
The final cost to save the floor was almost $68,000, not including the very generous donation of approx. $5000 of steel rebar from ARC Tasmania. The job took 2 weeks and was completed on September 14, 2018.
This is how the floor looks now. Notice how perfectly aligned the new stumps are.
We must say a huge thank you to Michael O'Halloran and his team from Deep Pinning in Hobart for their efforts in fixing the floor. A more professional outfit you could not find and a thoroughly delightful group of guys to work with. We would highly recommend them to anyone.
We are extremely grateful to the Tasmanian Liberal State Government who granted us $34,000 to kick start our fundraising efforts and to all of those companies, families and individuals who also donated funds towards the urgent restoration of the floor. We could never have done it without their help.
To continue to operate as a cinema-restaurant and function centre we have also had to substantially upgrade our commercial kitchen, which was another rather expensive but very necessary project, completed in early October, 2018.
The windows and facade
The 11 facade windows have been boarded up for decades and it is time to open them up and let the light in. Hmmmm.....not so easy.
This is how they used to look, these are the only 2 photos we have found so far......
and this is how they look now, from the inside.......
The rain gets inside and you can see the damage it has done to the walls. We need to stop that happening but estimates to restore the windows to this heritage listed building run from $50,000 to $100,000, way beyond our reach. We are working on a temporary solution to replace the current cement sheeting with clear polycarbonate, inside and out.
The intent is to waterproof the windows to protect the interior of the building and help preserve what remains of the window frames until we can afford to have them fully restored. This temporary work will cost a few thousand dollars and our plan is to have the facade stripped and painted at the same time. A cherry picker will be needed to accomplish both tasks so having them done at the same time will save money.
Ground floor facilities
Back in the day, The Paragon used to have ground floor facilities, outside at the rear of the building but apparently someone got rather drunk one night, a few decades ago, and managed to burn them down with fireworks. So the only remaining toilets are upstairs on the mezzanine floor. A big problem for a lot of our elderly guests and those with mobility issues.
We have a solution in mind that would give us extra toilets and a mezzanine seating level inside the main hall. This would actually gain us seating space whilst solving the accessibility problem. So provided we can convince Heritage Tasmania and the local council to allow it to happen and provided we can raise the substantial funds needed to complete the project we hope to have that done as soon as possible.
Wish list projects
A new digital projector. These pretty much range from $20,000 to $120,000. Sigh!
Remove the ugly tin sheeting from the western side of the building, re-render and repaint.
Purchase a portable stage for events and concerts.
Good quality, all-purpose sound equipment.
Covered entrance at the rear of the building to allow guests with mobility issues to be driven under shelter to access the theatre without getting drenched in our notorious weather.
A whole lot of other little things that we will work on over the years to come.
How you can help restore this iconic building and become part of its history forever.
Our plan is to place an engraved Huon Pine plaque in each of the 134 holes that were drilled in the floor.
Some will be "fact plaques". Telling the facts about the theatre, when it was built, who built it, how it was run, etc.
The rest will be "story plaques". These will have personal stories and anecdotes from people who have a history with, or memory of, the theatre, especially in its early days. Each plaque will also have the sponsors name engraved on it. Plaques will be laid in the holes and covered with a hard clear resin to preserve them forever.
We are calling for businesses, individuals and families to sponsor a plaque for either $300, $500 or $1000 with the most expensive plaques given the most prominent positions in the floor. There are only 134 plaques available and many have been sponsored already so get in quick to be sure of your name and story becoming part of the legend of this iconic building, forever.
This sample plaque gives an idea of how they will look.
We will work with each sponsor on wording for their plaques in keeping with the tone of the theatre. We are looking for interesting and amusing stories of this place that will entertain and enthral patrons for generations to come. We would especially like to record the names of former employees of the theatre such as projectionists, ushers, ticket sellers and those who serviced the canteen.
Perhaps your parents or grandparents courted at the theatre in the 1930's or 40's. Maybe you remember a significant event that happened here. We'd love to preserve those memories forever.
Or maybe you just have a passion for old movie theatres or original art deco buildings that you would like to see restored. If so, a fact plaque can bear your name forever.
For those who may wish to contribute a smaller amount, all other sponsorships over $50 will be recorded on a plaque to hang in the theatre. All donations are very gratefully received.
Yes we definitely bought a money pit, but we love The Paragon and believe it is worth the effort to preserve it for generations to come.
To pledge your support, please contact us here.
Thank you! Joy and Anthony.