LACONIA — The installation of the sign and marquee outside the Colonial Theatre was greeted Tuesday as a symbolic moment showing that the city’s downtown is on the rebound.
“I hope it helps to revitalize downtown,” Carol Dale of Laconia said of the multimillion-dollar restoration, which is now in its final phases.
Dale, who moved to Laconia 50 years ago, remembers going to the Colonial to see movies and even some live shows.
“I went there to see the Charlie Daniels Band before he got famous,” she recalled as she used her tablet to take photos of the installation of the blade sign. “He still had brown hair then,” she added with a chuckle.
The two-story high blade sign, along with the front and end caps of the marquee which were installed Tuesday, are replicas of originals which had become too deteriorated to restore. The re-creation job was done by Advantage Signs of Concord.
Part of Main Street was cordoned off as a crane hoisted the electrified displays which for decades have been landmarks in the downtown area.
For Warren Clement, who watched the operation, it was like seeing a dream come true.
“This is a big day,” he said. “Everyone has tried to save this (theater) at one time or another.”
Clement, who for 37 years owned and operated the Sundial Shop downtown, was part of an effort in the early 1990s to save the theater. Now he heads the committee that is working to solicit donations for the Colonial, which has been dark for more than 20 years, but opened to much fanfare 107 years ago.
At that time one of Laconia’s weekly newspapers trumpeted the theater’s opening by reporting that the Colonial was “One of the handsomest play-houses to be found in New England and far ahead of anything which the average city of Laconia can boast.”
“The community has been waiting for this for a long time,” said Jose Diaz, who owns Spyglass Eyewear across the street from the Colonial. “Just to see the sign go up is like being able to see light at the end of the tunnel.”
Diaz, who has helped operate optical shops in both New York City and Boston, said he made the decision to open his own store in downtown Laconia because of the Colonial restoration project.
“I decided, I’m going to ride the wave of this” economic revival, he said.
In the meantime, Diaz said, “I have a front-row seat of something that will really get people together.”