There were dozens of quasiarchaeological discoveries during the seven-month renovation of the 80-year-old Beacon Theater in Manhattan. The most telling, though, was the Folgers coffee can.
A Rock ´n´ Roll Survivor Prepares for Its Rebirth (September 9, 2008) It had long been thought that a sparkly, 10-inch-wide, cut-crystal ball ´” the principal ornament at the tip of the 900-pound chandelier in the rotunda of the former movie palace ´” was attached with a sturdy bronze fixture.
But when the chandelier was lowered to be cleaned, rewired and repaired, the real support for the crystal orb was revealed: a vintage 6-inch-tall coffee tin.
´It was slathered with gold house paint´ to match the chandelier, said Marc Tarozzi, a vice president of facilities at Madison Square Garden Entertainment, a division of Cablevision Systems Corporation, which in 2006 leased the Beacon for 20 years. ´The original bronze was lost in the mists of time.´
He added, deadpan: ´Actually we´re not certain it was Folgers. But the original color was definitely bright red.´
Now replaced with a bronze fixture, the dented tin was a slipshod token of neglect in the theater, at 2124 Broadway at West 74th Street. It is familiar to generations of New Yorkers as a film and vaudeville mecca, an all-around performance space, and, in recent decades, as the Carnegie Hall of city rock rooms.
During a rehearsal on Wednesday, Paul Simon, the headliner for the reopening celebration on Friday night, said: ´I´ve performed here many times and it was always fun, but I was overwhelmed to see how beautiful it is now.
´It´s a great house with a great vibe and its funkiness matched the music in a way,´ he added. ´But it´s nicer to have clean seats.´
During the renovation, which cost about $16 million, about 1,000 workers toiled in the opulent theater, an ´Arabian Nights´ pastiche of Greek, Roman, Renaissance and Rococo elements.
They uncovered many surprises in the Beacon, which was declared a landmark in 1979 and had been partially renovated many times, ´often ineptly,´ said Jay Marciano, president of Madison Square Garden Entertainment.
The unsightly main box-office kiosk on Broadway, coated in layers of cheap house paint, was revealed as a delicate birdcage of brass, glass and marble.
A long-lost stairway also came to light, yielding a remnant of venerable carpeting that inspired a replacement to adorn the lobbies, auditorium and stairways: 2,100 square yards of custom-patterned wool woven in gold, yellow, green and maroon.
In addition, an alert worker preparing to repaint an original water fountain ´” which was not working ´” was startled to realize that it was made of alabaster, Mr. Tarozzi said. It was cleaned and restored to working order.
During the renovation, the Beacon´s electrical system was redone for the first time since the theater´s construction, said Richard Claffey, senior vice president for theater operations at the Garden. New draperies with gold tassels replaced long-missing originals. A misplaced canvas mural in the neoclassical rotunda was recreated based on historical photographs.
New end standards along the aisles of the 2,829 new rust-red seats were cast from patterns close to the originals. Furthermore, multiple levels of ceiling cove lighting were rewired, then the fixtures rebulbed, as restorers say, returning the illumination to a glory not seen for 50 years, Mr. Tarozzi said.
Back to that poorly painted coffee tin: What will become of it?
´We´ll wrap it in plexiglass and put it in someone´s office,´ Mr. Marciano said. ´It should forever be part of the folklore of the place.´