The Hollywood Theater: The Restoration of Painted Surfaces on the Lower Façade

In Architecture, Conservation, DeMuro Awards, Design, History, Old School, Oregon, Portland, Restoration

Preservation Artisans Guild member Mary McMurray (Art First Colors for Architecture) received the distinctive DeMuro Award this year for her exceptional contributions to the work on the lower façade of the 1926 Hollywood Theater.

DeMuro Awards are bestowed for Superior Restorations and Outstanding Leadership in Historic Preservation. This particular project received the award for Historic Preservation, Skilled Craftsmanship, Oregon Heritage. Another PAG member, Scott Tice (Tice Industries) was also honored as a DeMuro recipient for his participation in this project.

From the Restore Oregon website: Under the leadership of architect Paul Falsetto, the primary goal of the Hollywood Theatre Lower Facade project was to recapture the drama of the original entry experience which was aggressively stripped away in the 1960s. Quality materials paired with expert installation yielded a design that is in keeping with the original, yet obviously of contemporary construction. During demolition, original building elements were discovered, repaired, and incorporated into the new design, showcasing the work of skilled craftspeople including original artwork, detailed glass-fiber reinforced concrete castings, highly-skilled exterior tilework, exterior terrazzo flooring with inlaid marble and metal graphics, and old-school plasterwork. The Hollywood Theatre Lower Facade is an exquisite example of restoration that reflects Restore Oregon’s years-long advocacy for the preservation and reuse of historic theaters across the state.

Mary shared the story of her work on the project along with the following photos:

My professional relationship with the Hollywood Theatre began in 1994 when preservation volunteers came together to spruce up the building and re-paint the interior. I was intrigued by the unique architecture, in particular the experience-altering ramp up to the second floor!

When in 2010 the call came to design paint colors for the interior, it was my privilege to enhance the dramatic architectural features with custom colors and color placement. New exterior colors in 2011, peach, green, blue, and orange, were chosen to coordinate with colors in the magnificent terracotta façade and to emphasize the Theatre’s role as the prominent entertainment hub of the neighborhood.

In 2021, the preservation Team saw the removal of a stucco overstructure (built in the 1960s) on the Lower Façade. Three original bas-reliefs above the entry door were revealed, albeit covered in several unattractive layers of paint. Above the bas-reliefs, a tall over-arch extended up to the barrel vault ceiling.

After taking numerous photos of the bas-reliefs, studying historic photos, and conducting careful on-site detection, my analysis of the paint showed that the original surface was painted in a mottled gold metallic and brown faux finish.

The over-arch above the bas-reliefs appeared to be painted brown, but upon examination, it proved to be skillfully decorated with subtle metallic gold and brown glazes, with the added dimension of a light spatter of teal paint overall. We were able to gently clean the over-arch surface, and a clear coat was applied to stabilize the finishes.

The new “Film God” bas-relief was installed about fifteen feet above the entry doors, and I painted it, with the aid of a hydraulic lift. Walls on either side of the entry doors were faux-finished in shades of red and metallic gold. The three bas-reliefs stand newly glorious in restoration.

I feel honored to help maintain the artistic vision of the original Theatre painters who worked nearly 100 years ago, and to keep the Hollywood Theatre glowing in beauty and service to the community. – Mary McMurray

Read more about the history of The Hollywood Theater and this special project at the Restore Oregon website.

Congratulations to the entire project team:

Paul M. Falsetto Architect

Hollywood Theatre

TM Rippey Consulting Engineers

Bremik Construction

Architectural Castings, Inc.

Adobe Plastering LLC

North American Terrazzo

Paulson’s Floor Covering

Tice Industries, Inc.

Joel Hamberg Painting

Art First Colors for Architecture