The ongoing restoration of downtown Frankfort's Grand Theatre has begun to reveal its layers of history.
Save the Grand Theatre Inc., a nonprofit organization, began work in 2005 to renovate the structure at 308 St. Clair St. After removing 30 truckloads of concrete and dirt from the building, the organization's president, Bill Cull, said he could begin to see the plaster painted walls from the original 1910 vaudeville theater.
The renovations, having stripped the theater down to the very walls, allow visitors to see the painted plaster of the smaller 1910 theater and the sloped floor and ornate decorations of the 1941 movie theater.
"Frankfort was a market center for the counties around before the highways made it easier to go to Lexington and other big cities," Cull said. "Families would come to town Saturdays, and all the kids would go to the theater."
Save the Grand is hosting an open house and yard sale to raise money for its efforts to turn the Grand Theatre into a performing arts facility. Saturday, from 2-5 p.m., the group will be selling items like authentic movie posters, doors from the theater, a World War II-era Japanese tea set and art prints.
The organization also plans to give tours of the safer parts of the theater, including the original sloped floor and the balcony area.
"We want the community to see what it looks like," Cull said.
The sale is not the only way the organization is raising money, however. There is also a 2 percent hotel room tax, approved Dec. 1, 2006, that is in place until it raises the $3 million needed for the restoration work.
The renovation project, Cull said, would not have been possible without the help of more than 125 volunteers throughout the process.
Before STGT began to renovate in 2005, it used the Grand Theatre structure to show movies and have concert series. A 35-millimeter movie projector was donated by Regal Theaters, as well as speakers, a "sheet"-type screen to show movies on, and 500 seats for the finished theater.
Roger Frazee, a Frankfort resident whose father oversaw the original Grand Theatre when it showed movies from the 1940s to the 1960s, is a Regal employee.
The theater building served several years as a discount store, and then as a lawyer's office, Cull said, and a good part of the renovation was tearing out the low ceiling and flat floor that had been installed to turn the building into the discount store.
For many, the theater also recalls the era of segregation.
In its 1940s movie theater incarnation, the building had a sweeping staircase that was used to quickly usher African Americans into the balcony area. The upstairs had "colored" restrooms and water fountains.
"They're actually the best seats in the house," Cull said of the balcony area. "But you didn't sit here because you got here first, it was because of what color you were."
Preservationists hope to turn the building into a community resource for everyone, however. Cull said he thought that season ticket-holders would probably be the ones in the balcony once the theater opens.
"Our goal had been to open the theater in fall 2008, but now it may be in 2009," Cull said.
Cull said he is also looking for another organization to donate 150 interlocking chairs. The Church of Latter Day Saints donated chairs to the Grand Theatre, but the chairs from Regal Theaters will be used for the final renovation.
"We're looking to give them away to another charitable organization," Cull said.
For more information about the chairs, call Bill Cull at 226-4157.