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October 22, 2009

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Stagecrafters gets grant for window repairs

How much would you expect to pay for 28 new windows? For most of us, considerably less than the $70,000 recently spent to restore and replace the windows in The Stagecrafters’ Colonial-era headquarters at 8132-34 Germantown Avenue.

The work was paid for by a grant from the City-wide Capital Grants Fund for Cultural Institutions, designed to spur economic development through the support of local arts organizations. It was awarded to the 81-year-old Chestnut Hill institution – one of the very few theaters in Philadelphia to be so honored – in recognition of its contributions to the cultural life of Philadelphia over the past eight decades.

In making the award, the city chose window replacement from among a long list of capital improvement projects proposed by the theater.

The Stagecrafters’ building, formerly known as the Peters House, dates in part back to 1752. It was identified as “significant” in the 1985 survey leading to the designation of Chestnut Hill as a National Historic District, and it is listed in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. 

So off-the-shelf replacement windows were not an option – no “Windows ‘R’ Us” vinyl-clad single-panes with snap-in grilles, but six-over-six wood sashes with true-divided lights. Twenty-two special-order windows were installed by B.F. Gotwals & Co. Inc., of Flourtown, where the original windows had previously been replaced.

For the six surviving 18th-century windows on the second floor, where the group’s offices, library and rehearsal space are located, the Philadelphia Historical Commission insisted on restoration rather than replacement. Still retaining their original glass, encrusted with centuries of accumulated paint, these windows had been permanently closed for decades, admitting icy drafts in winter and making the rooms unpleasantly hot in summer. 

The delicate process of removing each pane, cleaning and replacing it in the repaired sashes without breaking the glass, was performed by Val Hardy, craftsman-owner of University City Window Renovations.

“I like to preserve things … and if something is even remotely restorable, I will restore it,” Hardy said.

Stagecrafters has hopes of undertaking further renovations to its 200-plus-year-old building – restoring the floors, replastering and repainting the walls and woodwork, as well as insulating the building and upgrading its heating system.

“In addition to offering theatrical productions of the highest professional quality, we are very mindful of our responsibilities as custodians of this historically-significant property,” said Yaga Brady, spokesperson for the theater. “We are a small nonprofit institution with limited resources and, in the current financial climate, our chance of receiving significant grants is remote.

“We are extremely proud to have been selected to receive this grant, and we are grateful to the city for helping us to make a much-needed improvement to the fabric of our headquarters and to our year-round comfort.”

Hillers can contribute to the restoration of the Peters House by attending performances and by making tax-deductible contributions. For more information about the 2009-2010 Stagecrafters season or to make a donation, visit The Stagecrafters Web site at www.thestagecrafters.org or call 215-247-8881.




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