"We are hopeful that the first performance we schedule in the theatre will be a Christmas one," said Leslie Capell, president of the Anson County Arts Council, which is spearheading the renovation effort.
The Ansonia, built in 1925, started off as a vaudeville theatre, eventually becoming a movie theater before it finally closed in the 1990s. It was donated to the arts council in 1993 by the Poulmott family.
After years of talk about renovating and reopening the theatre, construction finally began last year. "It has drug on forever, and we realize that," Capell said. "When we can see real changes inside, it will be very exciting."
The stage inside the theatre has been expanded, and part of the lobby has been reconstructed to accommodate two bathrooms. In addition, two staircases have been added to access the balcony seats. Originally, the balcony was only accessible by an outside entrance, during segregation when the balcony seating was for African-Americans only.
"We had to take a lot of the lobby for the bathrooms, which were required by code," Capell said. The stairs also take up room in what used to be the lobby, pointed out Catherine Crandell, secretary/treasurer of the Anson County Arts Council.
"We're trying to keep things as close to the original as possible," she added.
The red and green sign in front of the theatre has been repainted to match the black and white that was original to the building, Capell said. In addition, the original 229 seats are being renovated by Chris Kale of Morganton. Hornwood is assisting with the fabric covering on the seats, while CMH Flooring will donate some of the new flooring, as well.
Crandell said in September that she envisions the reborn Ansonia as a centerpiece of the community. "We would love to do some things for the people that used to go there," she said. "But we also want to do more modern events to bring the young people in. We really have a group of kids that haven't been exposed to a lot of cultural events."
The theatre may host movies once or twice a month, as well as dance and piano recitals.
"I think it's going to be a real asset to the entire community," Capell said. "It's something that not only the Arts Council can use but it'll be available for businesses and schools, as well."
The arts council is also trying to keep the construction work contracted to local companies as often as possible. Lowery Construction is the general contractor, while Long Wiring, Union Mechanical, Cadillac Sign Company, Selectronics and VSC Fire & Security are other local companies doing work on the building.
The renovation is being completed in two phases, with the second and final phase being what Capell and Crandell call "the finishing phase."
"Once this phase gets started," Capell said, "it should be 120 days until completion."
The renovation of the Ansonia has been funded through private donations, as well as a number of grants, including a grant from HUD and a Golden LEAF grant in the amount of $150,000. The total price tag is expected to top $1 million. Although the arts council has partnered with the town of Wadesboro for some of the work, the town is not funding the project.
Recently, Crider & Crider Properties donated the use of the two storefronts next to the Ansonia and the arts council, which Capell and Crandell said will be used to advertise events at the arts council and at the theatre. "It will really help us to improve and market the entire street," Capell said.
Crandell said the arts council will have to have one more fundraiser for the theatre before it's completely finished. "We do have the funds for all the major construction, but there are lots of little things we'll need too," she said.
For more information about the theatre or to make donations, contact the Anson County Arts Council at 704-694-4950.