ELLSWORTH, Maine — City councilors on Monday unanimously agreed to designate The Grand auditorium as an Ellsworth Historic Landmark.
The Grand has been the focus of the arts in Ellsworth and the region since it was built in 1938, and the designation will help the theater continue to serve the community, according to Executive Director Zoe Scott.
“It’s great. The support of the city has been meaningful to us,” Scott said Tuesday. “Having this designation as a historic landmark will be useful as we prepare our application for the National Register [of Historic Places].”
The Maine Historic Preservation Commission recently determined that The Grand is eligible for listing on the National Register and is working to prepare the formal application for listing, Scott said.
The designation as an Ellsworth Historic Landmark comes with some requirements, according to Carolyn Ackerman, chairwoman of the Ellsworth Historic Preservation Commission.
The city’s historic preservation ordinance governs changes, particularly to the exterior, on landmark buildings to ensure they remain historically accurate, and such projects require a certificate of appropriateness from the commission, Ackerman told councilors on Monday.
The Grand directors already have indicated their interest in maintaining the authentic exterior of the building and are raising money to begin a restoration of the front of the theater including the art deco tower and marquee. The new recognition from the city and listing on the National Register will help with that effort, Scott said.
“All of that is important for contributors and donors as we move forward on this restoration project,” she said.
The first phase of the project, which is restoring the tower, will cost an estimated $90,000.
Grand officials already have located a source for the special Vitrolite glass, a thick, highly polished glass popular in the 1930s but no longer made, for the first phase of the project.
Fundraising already has netted $35,000, the bulk of that — $30,000 — coming from the annual fashion show this summer. The Grand also recently applied for a grant through the Maine Community Foundation for the project, Scott said.
Depending on the funding, work could begin on the project later this year. Phase II, which includes the restoration of the marquee, would follow. There are no firm cost estimates for that part of the project yet.