A prominent fixture of Portland’s Congress Street Arts District corridor, the State Theatre Building has anchored the corner of High Street and Congress Street since 1929. The marquee is the hallmark of the last standing movie palace in Portland from that era.
Under new management since 2010, SSA was involved in an extensive interior renovation to revive the theater as an 1,800+ seat music venue. Necessary life safety upgrades were made while taking care to preserve the original Spanish Revival detailing. Turning their attention to the exterior in 2018, theater owners and operators partnered with the City of Portland’s Facades Improvements Program to restore the marquee with partial contributions from a Community Development Block Grant. Working with the City of Portland’s Historic Preservation office, the design team looked to historic photos from the 1930s and a salvaged ornamental scroll believed to be from the 1929 marquee for precedent. While using robust, contemporary materials such as Kynar painted metal to ensure longevity and energy efficient LED lighting, the goal was to match the original intent of the marquee design as closely as possible.
Over ten months, the marquee was carefully reconstructed, with its original structure maintained, restored, and augmented where needed to meet current code. The contractors worked carefully to minimize impact of structural repairs to the building’s limestone façade while safeguarding the existing chain anchors. The sign manufacturers dutifully reproduced the signature ‘STATE’ letter work and ornamental scroll, and sourced a black smaltz glass coating for the front façade that would have been authentic to the 1920’s.
The vibrant return of the marquee has energized the streetscape, the sidewalk bustling with crowds lining up for shows under the glow of electric lights once again.
Client | State Theatre
Location | Portland, Maine
Photographer | Magnus Stark Photography