Wright Opera House Announces Renovation & Restoration Campaign
The Friends of the Wright Opera House announces the main phase of the renovation and restoration of Ouray County’s historic Wright Opera House. The funding campaign is off to a promising start with $950,000 already contributed and pledged toward the $1.5 million total required. Objectives include making the building safer, stronger, and more able to support itself financially, so it can continue its 129-yr-old mission as a cultural center of Ouray County.
Funds raised to date include a $198,000 grant from the State Historic Fund, as well as gifts and pledges from individuals. The Gates Family Foundation has pledged another $75,000 if the total fundraising reaches $1,000,000 by November 1, 2017.
“Raising the next $550,000 will be a challenge,” said Wright board member Dee Williams, “but the Wright has always had tremendous support from our area as well as the many visitors who attend events.”
Two years after completing the initial renovation of the street level lobby area, the FWOH contracted with local architect, Kit Meckel of Meckel Design Build, to create a remodel of the 1888 building. Meckel, working closely with Mark Orgren, head of the FWOH building committee, Mick Graff, SHF grant administrator, David Singer, historic restoration consultant, and Kieran Doone, volunteer construction advisor created plans that include expanding the present lobby area into the back of the building to accommodate ADA restrooms, a catering kitchen and show bar; replacing the upstairs bathrooms with an upstairs concession area; designing a rear auditorium wall that is retractable allowing the auditorium to be combined with the lobby area when open, or pulled closed for theater or concert events.
According to Orgren “these renovations will allow the Wright to host a wide range of private events such as wedding receptions, parties and conferences. The enlarged public space along with an efficient catering area will make the Wright a perfect space to hold an event. Revenue from these activities will go a long way toward financing the operating costs of the Wright.”
Nancy Nixon, FWOH board chair explained that “The cramped backstage, inadequate wing space and lack of dressing rooms make performances difficult at the Wright. Our remodel plans include a bump out on the back of the building to accommodate these needs.”
Along with these dramatic renovations, the plans include air conditioning, a much needed overhaul of the electrical system, installation of a fire safety sprinkler system, foundation and masonry repairs and the preservation and restoration of the Wright’s historic Mesker façade and balcony.
Orgren is working with volunteers who have gutted the ground level space at the back of the building in preparation for the ADA bathrooms. “We have found some very interesting architectural features . You never know what to expect when you start pulling stuff out of these old buildings.” Anyone interested in joining the volunteers having fun restoring the Wright should contact Mark at (970) 729-1718.
Because the renovations will take place in phases, the Wright is able to continue programming and has a full schedule through December 2017. We plan to work around events and do not expect the building to be closed at any stage for more than a few days at a time.
The date for completion of all of these projects is December 2019 with a huge party scheduled for January 2020! We hope to see you there!