$500,000 gift to help renovate Missouri Theatre

The late Mary Nell Porter left the theater company the money through her estate.
Tuesday, January 9, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:48 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts received a $500,000 donation from the estate of Mary Nell Porter that will modernize the building and renew its theatrical splendor.

The Missouri Symphony Society, which owns the Missouri Theatre, will use half of Porter’s donation to renovate and restore the theater that has hosted artistic performances since 1928.


Money from the estate gift will go toward renovating the Missouri Theatre, which will include re-covering seating. (ALEX COONEY/Missourian)

“This is another step in our effort to raise funds to restore this theater,” said Nancy Bedan, a board member and a past president of the symphony society and the theater center.

This April, contractors will submit their bids for the renovation project, which is estimated to cost $6.7 million, according to the society’s architectural firm, Architects Alliance Inc.

Cary Gampher, an architect for Architects Alliance, said the existing interior of the theater will be renovated to resemble the original building as closely as possible. He used original records, including blueprints and photographs, to determine the look and feel of the theater.

Gampher said the firm has already used chemicals to peel off paint from the walls to determine the original paint colors for the theater, lobby, foyer and grand foyer. The original paint colors include silver, gold, dusty mauve and gray-green. Other aspects of the original building that will be reintroduced include fabric-covered walls, mirrored tile on walls and medallion-patterned carpeting.

He said one of the theater’s most interesting features is the stained glass underneath the balcony. The stained glass panes have not been lit for years, but the renovation should return the glass to its glory days.

On the more mundane side, the theater’s bathrooms on the first floor will be brought up to code, and new bathrooms will be built on the second floor, Gampher said.

“It’s a balance of maintaining historic integrity and achieving code compliance,” he said.

The theater will close Aug. 1 and should reopen June 1, 2008, in time for the 2008 Hot Summer Nights Music Festival, which includes the Mary Nell Porter Premier Series. David White, executive director of the symphony society and the theater center, said the series will give the Missouri Symphony Orchestra the opportunity to showcase new composers and their works.

Other funding for the theater restoration includes $2 million in federal and state Historic Tax credits, $250,000 from the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau and a $100,000 pledge from Boone County National Bank.

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