Ridglea Theater Renovation Progressing

Demolition work continues as Ridglea returns to original look

The Ridglea Theater's renovations are far from done but already reveal bits of history.

Earlier this year, the city of Fort Worth declared the theater on Camp Bowie Boulevard a historic building. Now the work to turn it back into its historic self has begun.

Construction workers continued demolition work inside the theater on Tuesday, taking down a balcony extension added in the last three decades. It’s clear that the theater is getting ready to go back in time.

“It’s been a challenge to make the decisions on the things we need to replace or restore, but for the most part, we've gone off memories and photographs,” architect Sam Austin said.

Photographs will help guide workers piece together the original entryway in the theater, which was  cut up long ago in parts and covered with six inches of concrete for a kitchen.

The floor and the mural on the walls above it need some major work.

“There's been a lot of damage done due to the renovations and remodels,” Austin said, referring to projects in the '80s and '90s.

The balcony extension is gone, and old terraces made of wood on the balcony have been removed, revealing the original floor and concrete steps. And a wall dividing the balcony was torn down.

“Now we can see all these parts that have been sitting around for all these years that we saved [can] actually be brought back into the fold and be a part of this building,” said Richard Van Zandt, general manager of the theater.

Van Zandt made one such find years ago. He found a wooden structure behind the stage and used it as part of a bar. Photographs reveal it was the original concession stand in the lobby and will be moved there during redevelopment.

The project has both professional and personal meaning for Austin, whose father was the first chief projectionist at the theater in 1950.

“To be able to restore part of my own past is just incredible,” he said.

Those involved in the project say the finished theater will be an incredible gift back to the area and city.
“We're going to have something to be proud of and the city of Fort Worth can be proud of,” Van Zandt said.

The remodeling should be completed by the spring if everything goes smoothly. Once finished, the theater will show old movies and have some live performances.

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