The newly-renovated Bradley Theater takes center stage

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Mon., Feb. 17, 2014
Kathy and Tom Borner oversaw and funded the majority of the restoration project. Photos by D. Coffey.
Kathy and Tom Borner oversaw and funded the majority of the restoration project. Photos by D. Coffey.

On Feb. 16, after four long months, people once again filled the lobby and auditorium of the Bradley Theater in Putnam. They’d come for the unveiling of the theater’s new ceiling. They’d come to see all the other renovation work that had been done. And they’d come to welcome the old gal back to a neighborhood that had sorely missed her.

The Bradley has been off limits since September, when a section of plaster fell from the ceiling onto the balcony. While the integrity of the roof was never in question (engineers found the steel trusses, joists and roof to be sound), the plaster covering the rest of the ceiling was a concern. It had to be removed.

The decision to restore the ceiling wasn’t an easy one for owners Tom and Kathy Borner. It was an expensive proposition. But when the community came together and raised $30,000 for the project, they knew restoring the Bradley was worth it.

The biggest cost was for the scaffolding. “Once we had the platform up, we knew we had to do something,” Borner said. “One thing led to another.”

Work crews removed the plaster and hung sheetrock. They stripped the old paint from the crown molding and repainted it in gold. They removed the chandelier, and Kathy Borner repaired the plaster portion to its original design. Stars were stenciled into the ceiling. Railings around the balcony were painted in gold. The balcony itself was given a fresh coat of paint. The proscenium was given a thorough cleaning and then repainted in blue and gold. The floor of the auditorium was repainted. Sconces were fixed. A coffered ceiling was created in the lobby and entryway. The fire exit and emergency stairway were upgraded.

“The ceiling was just a small part of the renovations,” Borner said. The Borners wanted to keep the renovations age-appropriate. The Bradley has seen its share of transformations. It opened in 1901 as a vaudeville theater, was used as a movie theater and now is home to the Theater of Northeastern Connecticut. “It’s a jewel,” Borner said. “It really adds to the charm of Putnam.”

Thompson resident Dan Touchette remembered working as an usher at the Bradley when it was a movie house. Walt Disney films were shown on Saturday matinees. “It’s a treasure,” he said.

The Bradley brought in more than 14,000 people to the city annually, according to TNECT President Mike Gallo.

TNECT Board member Marian Marchesseault passed out programs to people streaming through the doors. “This is a rebirth,” she said. “We’re glad to have our patrons back.”

Bill Corriveau, who has been involved in Bradley productions for more than 20 years, agreed. “This means we’re here to stay,” he said. “You don’t have to travel to Boston or New York. Now we can keep doing quality theater right here.”

“We’re fortunate that we have a dedicated group of actors and theater lovers,” Borner said. “The theater wouldn’t work without the volunteers. There are an awful lot of people who put in time here.”

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