EXTREME MAKEOVER,
THIS OLD HOUSE STYLE
BEGINS FRIDAY APRIL 1, 2005


      A new Franklin County construction project starts tomorrow with the help of the All Arts Council, the St. Albans Historical Museum, and WGBH-Boston.
      Regular readers may know that Anne and I gutted our house for a renovation project last year. We had carpenters, and plumbers, and the world's slowest electrician, and plaster dust in our hair for the better part of a year. I swore I would never do that again. Until television producer Michael Hammer approached St Albans City with a record-setting project that could be finished in just one week.
      "We will renovate a small exhibit space that reflects the original Waugh Opera House in this building," Mr. Hammer said, pointing to the former Doolins Building. "And we will build a bridge high over Taylor Park to connect the Main Street space with the theater space on the top floor of the St Albans Historical Museum."
      The project will include a small meeting room that replicates the Waugh space, 14,000 square feet of exhibit and convention space in the People Bridge, and the 200 seat Museum theater.
      A construction project this size generally allows up to one year for architectural design, six months for bidding and contracting for the trades, and eighteen months for actual construction, even with the use of extremely rapid cure composites. Compress that schedule into one week and you have the premise of This Old [Opera] House--Extreme Makeover.
      "We have 41 different crews ready to start work tomorrow morning," said Mr. Hammer.
      Kevin O'Connor who hosts This Old House arrived in St Albans last week for pre-production work on This Old [Opera] House--Extreme Makeover. He will be joined by the full cohort of This Old House experts: master carpenter Norm Abram, general contractor Tom Silva, heating and plumbing expert Rich Trethewey, and landscape contractor Roger Cook.
      "People love reality shows," Mr. Hammer said. "We've just celebrated our 25th anniversary on the air and this fits our own plan to punch up 'This Old House'."
      Architect Laz Scangas conceived the People Bridge and completed the engineering work and architectural drawings last month. They were unveiled at Town Meeting in St Albans City Hall.
      "We had two goals, to reflect the heritage of the City and to build a structure that could stand on its own as sculpture," Mr. Scangas said.
      The cornerstone of the project, the People Bridge will start at the roof of the former Doolins Building, cross Main Street, Taylor Park, and Church Street, and join the St Albans Historical Museum at the top of its front staircase. The structure uses a stressed skin with a single pylon support at the north and south sidewalks of Taylor Park. Making extensive use of advanced composite materials; the design will be presented at the Fourth Middle East Symposium on Composites for Infrastructure Applications in Alexandria, Egypt in May.
      "Our design maximizes the surface area for interior and exterior art," Mr. Scangas said. The All Arts Council plans a rotating exhibit of area artists inside and will commission permanent murals for the exterior.
      Remember the date.
      This morning, three Public Television crews and the Channel 15 volunteers began filming while Paul Bangs' and Beth Casavant's fifth grade class from Highgate Elementary School arrived for a field trip.
      "The students will visit on three different days," said Wayne Tarr, Assistant Principal at Highgate Elementary and a member of the All Arts Council. "This project is an excellent, if compressed, way to teach how to combine public art and city planning."
Remember the date.
      Opera houses were the cultural center of Franklin County in the past. In the early Twentieth Century, the Waugh Opera House inhabited the 43,000 square foot "Doolins building" on Main Street in St. Albans. Dr. Waugh was a local homeopath. Although the building has been divided into offices and apartments, the main staircase and much of the original floor plan remains. This opera house hosted orchestra and dance music, national revues, magicians, and traveling acts awaiting admission to Canada. The oldest orchestra leader in the United States, Sterling Weed has been directing since 1928. He played the scores for silent movies at the Waugh Opera House.
      In 2000, Sue Nadeau led a series of tours of the Doolins Building, the original home of the Waugh Opera House in downtown St Albans. The visitors included Alexander Aldrich of the Vermont Arts Council and Norm Abrams of This Old House. That was a good introduction for our discussion on the need for a regional art center.
      "The Museum and the Arts Council have planned a joint project for some time," said Museum President Warren Hamm. "I think we envisioned starting a little smaller, but this bridge will be a real boon to the community."
Check the date.
      Crew Number Three will begin pre-casting the sides and supports for the bridge on Main Street between Kingman and Lake starting at dawn on Saturday morning. Parking will be banned and the street closed to regular traffic during the pour.
      "We expect Main Street to be closed for only two days," St. Albans City Manager Brian Searles said.
      The rest of the project will be completed "in the air" or inside the two buildings. Multiple camera crews will film every step of the construction.
      The Creative Economy studies reported on earlier showed that municipalities should identify and encourage creative uses for buildings. The Waugh Opera House as a performance space will be lost, but this project will enable its history to continue.
      This Old [Opera] House--Extreme Makeover will air beginning in April, 2005 on WETK-Burlington and WCFE-Plattsburg. Check your local listings. The Making of This Old [Opera] House, hosted by this reporter, will begin on Channel 15 on Saturday, April 1, 2005, at 9 p.m.
      The All Arts Council and St Albans for the Future will host a special opening reception on a date TBA. Admission is for the reception will be only $100/adults and $75/seniors and children with tickets already sold out at the All Arts ticket centers: Enosburg Pharmacy and Merchants Bank in Enosburg Falls, at Swanton Rexall, and at Better Planet and at the Kept Writer in St Albans.
Remember the date.
      Despite the fact that my hair now uses the new Maple Wax beauty treatment, this column may convince you that your favorite arts council chair has hit too many high notes. Rest assured that it is again April 1 and you have been fooled.


After reading this report, you may think that your favorite arts council chair has hit too many high notes. Rest assured that
NO GROUND WAS EVER BROKEN
it is again April 1, and you have been fooled.


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A small closing note: People regularly asked me about tickets in the week or so before this event and still tell me how sorry they are to have missed it.

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