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Up On The Rooftop
by Markanthony Izzo | Dec 8, 2010 7:53 am
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Up On The Rooftop
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Sent: Dec 8, 2010 10:46 am
Photo: Markanthony Izzo
The American Flag in the foreground at the Derby Municipal Parking Garage gives an indication of the working conditions the crew in the background on the roof is up against.
The workers are installing a base that will support a cupola on the historic Sterling Opera House which was the first structure in Connecticut to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The cupola is tentatively scheduled to be in place by the end of next week.
DERBY GHOST HUNT
Spooky doings may get air time
Written by Susan Hunter
The Valley Gazette
Wednesday, 01 September 2010 13:40
The Sterling Opera House in Derby may be featured on a television show focusing on paranormal activity (Photo by Susan Hunter)
DERBY â€" Derbyâ€™s historic, and vacant, Sterling Opera House may be featured in an upcoming segment of the television show Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files, said Rich DiCarlo, president of the Derby Cultural Commission.
DiCarlo spoke at the Board of Aldermen meeting on Aug. 26, requesting the boardâ€™s approval to allow the production company to enter the Opera House.
Their vote was necessary because the opera house is considered an abandoned building, DiCarlo said.
And, it may be haunted.
DiCarlo said he sat in on a preliminary paranormal investigation in the old structure when an investigator began communicating with the spirit of a little boy.
DiCarlo said he saw a rubber ball move along the floor and saw childlike handprints appear on a chair.
â€œWe have evidence of the voice of a child on a digital sound recorder,â€ he said.
â€œAll the findings are subject to interpretation,â€ he emphasized, but the production company has expressed interest in filming a show about possible paranormal activity at the opera house, pending a review of the evidence.
The building is â€œa big tape recorder,â€ he said, with quartz in its foundation and brick walls. People who have a sensitivity to the paranormal act as antennae.
And there may be more publicity.
A small segment is expected to be aired on Animal Planetâ€™s The Haunted show, he said, focusing on sightings of two figures walking through the building that were caught on tape, and on spheres of light.
DiCarlo said the commission is looking into conducting â€œspooking sessionsâ€ at the local libraries at Halloween time.
Derby Searching For Opera House Photos
by Nina Leff | Aug 19, 2010 9:10 pm
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Derby Searching For Opera House Photos
Derby Public Library
Derby officials say this is one of the few old interior photos they have of the Sterling Opera House on Elizabeth Street.
Derby city officials are on the hunt for interior photographs of the Sterling Opera House.
While exterior shots of the old Elizabeth Street opera house are common, photographs of the interior are rare. Officials want the photos to get a sense of what the interior of the historic building looked like in its golden years. The photos could guide them if and when the interior renovation starts.
The city is searching for grant money to renovate the interior. Theyâ€™ve collected money for an exterior rehab and have money to hire an architect to figure out how to handle the interior renovations.
As it stands, they have just one interior shot of the opera house. Itâ€™s from the Derby Public Libraryâ€™s local history collection.
The photo depicts two men, one playing a violin. Neither man has been identified and the photograph does not have a date. The location of the photo was identified as the second floor of the opera house.
Derbyâ€™s Markanthony Izzo said flyers will be hung around the city asking the public to look for photos. A copy of the flyer is posted below. Article continues after the document.
â€œThere has to be more photographs out there somewhere. Itâ€™s just a matter of finding them,â€ Izzo said.
Izzo is using the media, personal connections and the local senior centers to track down more photographs.
Interior photographs of the opera house would benefit the current restoration project by providing insight into what it looked like while operational, Mayor Anthony Staffieri said.
â€œWhat we really need right now is pictures of the inside of the theater so we can actually restore it to its original state,â€ Staffieri said.
So far, all information on the interior of Sterling has come from articles in the Evening Sentinel from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
If officials want to copy the color patterns of the old theater, itâ€™s possible.
â€œWeâ€™re fortunate in that the newspapers back then were much more local,â€ said Robert Novak, executive director of the Derby Historical Society.
â€œOften, the Sterling Opera House would renovate and the newspaper would describe the colors of the walls, the trim, the carpets. These are invaluable,â€ Novak said.
By Michelle Tuccitto Sullo, Naugatuck Valley Bureau Chief
DERBY â€" The city is going out to bid this week to find an architectural and engineering firm to design the interior of the Sterling Opera House.
Sheila Oâ€\Malley, executive director of the cityâ€\s Office of Economic and Community Development, said the city will give prospective bidders until Jan. 22 to submit a bid package.
â€œWe are hoping to get some very competitive bid prices and cost estimates because of the current economic climate,â€ Oâ€\Malley said.
The city has raised about $190,000 through state and federal funds and grant money from private organizations to use toward funding the interior design work.
â€œWe are hoping that weâ€\ll get the lionâ€\s share of the interior design done,â€ Oâ€\Malley said. â€œWeâ€\ll see how far the money takes us.â€
City officials are working to transform the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, into a regional performing arts center.
The city wants the successful bidder to have extensive experience in designing historic theater facilities.
Once the design work is completed, the city can apply for money to actually renovate the inside of the building, Oâ€\Malley said. She estimated it will cost about $10 million to renovate the interior into a new state of the art performance space.
According to Oâ€\Malley, the interior design work will take about six months, and then renovations will take another year and a half.
The city spent months doing exterior upgrades to the building, and it is now sealed off from the elements. A new main cupola is scheduled to be installed on top of the building in the spring.
Many of the old theater seats have been removed, and the new design will likely feature fewer seats, but larger ones, for increased comfort, Oâ€\Malley said.
â€œThe acoustics are near-perfect, and we want to keep the integrity of the acoustics intact,â€ Oâ€\Malley said.
The successful bidder will need to consult with theater groups to determine what needs to be done inside the building, she said. Compliance with handicapped accessibility and fire codes must also be part of the plans.
â€œSince the building is on the National Register of Historic Places, the interior design also has to comply with historic regulations,â€ Oâ€\Malley said. â€œTheyâ€\ll have to make it historic, but functional. Weâ€\ll need modern technology to accommodate modern theater and community groups.â€
The opera house was used as a theater until 1945 and housed city offices and a police station until 1965, then for years was left vacant and deteriorating.
Mayor Anthony Staffieri stressed that no city funding is being used for the interior design work, as the city was able to secure private grants and state and federal funding.
â€œThis will start the process of it being designed for the use we want,â€ Staffieri said. â€œThe design will eliminate the old city hall and police station offices. A theater will need wardrobe space and dressing rooms. This design will map out how the inside will look. This is another pivotal moment for the opera house.â€
Michelle Tuccitto Sullo can be reached at
Officials hope revived Opera House will revitalize downtown
By Kate Ramunni
Updated: 12/03/2009 11:30:05 PM EST
DERBY — Five years ago, the long-shuttered Palace Theater in Waterbury got a multimillion-dollar makeover, and the city hasn’t been the same since, officials there say.
Officials here hope refurbishing the Sterling Opera House will have the same affect on downtown Derby, and next week will take another step in that direction.
Bids will go out next week for an architect to come up with a new design for the interior of the Elizabeth Street building, Economic Development Director Sheila O'Malley said. And on Thursday, Palace Theater CEO Frank Tavera toured the facility to get a feel for the building and see what he thinks it can become.
“It has huge potential,” Tavera said. “It’s impressive — it’s a great structure with great bones and a nice layout.” Whoever is chosen to oversee the interior design will be asked to consult with Tavera, O'Malley said, in hopes of replicating here the success he brought to Waterbury.
“It was a big transformation, and a lot of the credit goes to Frank,” O'Malley said. “He’s done a remarkable job.” The Palace is considerably larger than the opera house —2,600 seats compared to the 900 that are estimated to be installed here. Waterbury got $30 million in restoration funding from the state Department of Economic and Community Development for the work, Tavera said, but that was in different economic times.
“Back then they had money to give out,” he said.
The Palace, like the Sterling Opera House, was vacant for years before the makeover, Tavera said. Since it reopened, “we have seen huge growth downtown,” he said, as the theater hosts about 130 programs annually.
“The streets there used to be empty,” Mayor Anthony Staffieri said, “and now they’re full” — just what he wants to see here.
“It has totally revitalized downtown (Waterbury) with foot traffic,” Tavera said, with more than a half million people coming to the theater in the past five years.
And that traffic has fueled an increase of customers for downtown businesses, Tavera said.
“Restaurants have seen a 30 percent increase in business and new restaurants have popped up,” he said. “The city is cleaner, safer and friendlier than it was five years ago.”
That’s why it’s imperative that the opera house project is done right, Tavera said. The chosen architects must “maximize the best design of that space,” he said.
“The architects will be consulting with Frank because of his expertise and insight,” O'Malley said. “They will be coordinating with him and getting a lot of input.”
Those expected to respond to the request for bids include graduate architectural students from Yale University, O'Malley said. The city has about $200,000 in grant money to pay for the work that came from the Valley Community Foundation, the Katherine Matthies Foundation, Bank of America and money procured by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, O'Malley said.
“We will get as much done as we possibly can with the money — it’s a good start,” she said. The outside of the building was recently completed using more than a million dollars in grant money.
It’s money well spent, said Staffieri, who holds the opera house as a top priority.
“Having a theater in our city will create a renaissance in the whole Valley,” he said. “We will have something to brag about in our own hometown.”
Halloween art exhibit unveils Sterling Opera House â€˜ghostâ€\
Saturday, October 31, 2009
By Patricia Villers, Register Staff
DERBY â€" Valley Arts Council President Rich DiCarlo said Halloween is an ideal time to showcase spooky art and hunt for ghosts in what some say is a haunted building.
He is more than happy to show off a photo of â€œghost-like figuresâ€ that he snapped inside the historic Sterling Opera House, the long-vacant 19th century building on Elizabeth Street.
DiCarlo, who also serves as chairman of the cityâ€\s Cultural Commission, took the photo in 2007, but thought he lost it when his comptuer crashed. He discovered that since he had e-mailed the photo, it was still stored on a server and he was able to retrieve it.
The photo depicts a shadowy figure of what looks like a woman wearing a Victorian-era dress, standing in the theater balcony. Next to â€œherâ€ is a smaller figure that could be a person seated behind a balcony railing.
DiCarlo said the photo may be two years old, but â€œwe figured what better day to announce the discovery than on Halloween.â€
The photo is in a glass case in the arts councilâ€\s GalleryFox Performing Arts Center, a small gallery at 37 Elizabeth St. filled with various kinds of artwork produced by council members.
The Halloween-themed exhibit will be up for a week, DiCarlo said.
In August, paranormal expert Richard Felix of Derby, England, former host of Britainâ€\s â€œMost Hauntedâ€ television show, arrived as part of a trip he is making to visit all of the Derbys in the world.
DiCarlo said he was with Mayor Anthony Staffieri when Staffieri gave Felix a tour of the opera house. A photo was taken in a dressing room, and the photo shows what looks like a woman wearing a Victorian-style dress similar to what is in his 2007 photo.
DiCarlo said as far as he can determine, the opera house was never the scene of anything tragic. One theory is the shadowy female figure is the widow of Charles Sterling, after whom the opera house is named. Sterling died before the building was completed. DiCarlo said â€œsheâ€\s the common denominatorâ€ connected to the building and may be watching over it.
DiCarlo said a popular paranormal investigation TV show has expressed an interest in visiting Derby to shoot an episode.
â€œI have my evidence, and people can read into it what they want,â€ DiCarlo said.
Patricia Villers can be reached at
Sterling Opera House rehab gets more funding
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
DERBY â€" The city is getting more grant money to use for designing the interior of the Sterling Opera House.
Mayor Anthony Staffieri announced Monday that the Valley Community Foundation has awarded a $4,500 grant toward the work. The money includes $2,500 in funds from the Samuel Rifkin Memorial Fund, established at the Valley Community Foundation by David Rifkin in memory of his father, a longtime Derby businessman.
â€œI am extremely grateful for their generosity and interest in our beloved Sterling Opera House,â€ Staffieri said. â€œThis brings us one step closer to realizing the completion of what I envision as a regional cultural center.â€
Sheila Oâ€\Malley, city director of Economic and Community Development, said Monday the city now has about $190,000 raised for the interior design work. This amount also includes state and federal funds and grant money from the Katharine Matthies Foundation, she said.
â€œWe can get a decent interior design with these funds,â€ Oâ€\Malley said.
According to Oâ€\Malley, the interior design work may be more expensive, as design work can be about 10 percent of the total renovation cost, which would put the design work in the $1 million range.
â€œBecause we only have about $190,000, I am going to put a bid out there to see how much we can get done for that amount and go from there,â€ Oâ€\Malley said.
The money will be used to hire a design team and to work on creating construction documents, according to Staffieri.
Once the design work is completed, the city can then apply for money to actually renovate the inside of the building, Oâ€\Malley said. She estimated it will cost about $10 million for the interior renovations.
According to Oâ€\Malley, the interior design work will take about six months, and then the renovations will take another year and a half.
â€œWe are probably about two years away from having the Sterling Opera House open,â€ Oâ€\Malley said.
The city spent months doing exterior upgrades to the building, and it is now sealed off from the elements.
A new main cupola for the roof has been fabricated, and it is now in storage. A cupola is decorative, like the steeple on a church. It will be installed on top of the building in the spring. Officials are seeking more state grant money to do roof foundation and modification work to support the new cupola, as bids had come in higher than city officials expected.
â€œThe cupola is heavy, and it has to withstand the wind and the weather, so the new foundation is important,â€ Oâ€\Malley said.
City officials hope the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, will eventually be a regional performing arts center.
Ken Hughes, president of the Board of Aldermen, said, â€œWe have worked hard the last two years on completing the outside renovations, and we will continue to work hard to complete the inside. The end result will benefit Derby and the Valley.â€
Sterling Opera House awaits new cupola
Written by Susan Hunter
Thursday, 17 September 2009 13:06
Derby Mayor Tony Staffieri admires the newly fabricated dome and cupola that will be installed atop the Sterling Opera House.(Submitted photo)
DERBY â€" A newly fabricated main cupola for the Sterling Opera House was delivered Thursday to a storage facility in Beacon Falls.
The cupola will be installed on the opera house roof once funding is in place to build a cupola foundation, said Derby Economic Development Director Sheila Oâ€™Malley. Its installation will mark the completion of exterior renovation work on the building.
State funding paid for fabrication of the cupola, which cost $70,000, Oâ€™Malley said.
Derby Mayor Tony Staffieri said heâ€™s pleased with the work Campbellsville Industries has done on the cupola for the 120-year-old opera house. The Kentucky-based company has replicated the cupola to look like the original one, and has made it out of weather-resistant materials. The dome is made of copper sheathing.
â€œHopefully, the cupola will last for 100 or 200 years,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s going to be a beacon to the whole Valley.â€
City officials are working to secure funding for the interior renovation of the opera house. So far, theyâ€™ve received $150,000 from U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauroâ€™s office, $22,500 from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and $7,000 from the Katherine Matthies Foundation.
Oâ€™Malley has applied for $10 million in federal stimulus funds, Staffieri said, or a donation from a wealthy benefactor would be appreciated.
The next objective is to create a refurbished meeting room in the buildingâ€™s interior, where the former aldermanic chambers were located from 1945 to 1965.
After its heyday as a theater, the opera house served as City Hall, but for the past 44 years has stood vacant opposite the city Green.
A new center cupola was installed on the Opera House in April 2008.
Derbyâ€™s Opera House Could Get Another $150,000
by Eugene Driscoll | Jun 24, 2009 12:48 pm
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Derbyâ€™s Opera House Could Get Another $150,000
Sent: Sep 25, 2009 8:10 am
Photo: Jodie Mozdzer
A tour of the Sterling Opera House June 20.
The city could receive another $150,000 to be used toward the renovation of the Sterling Opera House on Elizabeth Street, Mayor Anthony Staffieri announced this week.
The money was secured by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro and is included in an interior and environment appropriation bill. The next step is for the bill to be reviewed by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
During its history, the Sterling Opera House, built in 1889, featured performances by comedian Red Skelton and John Philip Sousa. It later housed City Hall and the police department, but then fell into disrepair.
City officials are trying to raise between $10 to $12 million to restore the building to its former glory.
In April, Derby received a $25,000 grant from the Conn. Trust for Historic Preservation. The money will be used for building and fire code analysis.
The new money will go toward the overall design of the interior of the building, according to a prepared statement from Staffieriâ€™s office.
City officials, in an attempt to keep the building from further deterioration, renovated and sealed the outside of the building.
The Sterling Opera House was a popular feature at this yearâ€™s Derby Day, held June 20, when city officials allowed guided tours inside parts of the building.
The opera house project may take on additional importance, as the Derby courthouse on Elizabeth Street may close due to cost-cutting measures by the state.
City officials see the renovation of the opera house as a key element in Derbyâ€™s downtown revitalization.
â€œThis opera house will being new life to Derbyâ€™s downtown and new life to the surrounding communities once fully restored,â€ Staffieri said in a prepared statement.
DeLauro said she hoped the restoration of the historic building would generate interest in the arts, along with spurring economic development.
City Alderman Ken Hughes said the city will continue to seek grants so the restoration costs are â€œnot carried by our taxpayers.â€
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More money needed for opera house renovation
Monday, May 18, 2009
By Michelle Tuccitto SulloNaugatuck Valley Bureau Chief
DERBY â€" Work on the new main cupola on the Sterling Opera House will be more expensive than the city anticipated, so city officials are seeking more grant money to cover the cost.
Sheila Oâ€\Malley, the cityâ€\s director of economic and community development, said the city received two bids for the necessary roof foundation and modification work, with both bids at around $110,000.
That is much more than what the city had estimated, and more than the remaining grant money can cover, according to Oâ€\Malley.
The city had received state funding for exterior upgrades such as new windows and doors, and has about $67,000 left, according to Oâ€\Malley. The city hoped to use the remainder for the new cupola, foundation and installation costs, but now knows from the high bids that more money is needed, she said.
â€œWe will go ahead and have the cupola built and then store it while we look for other funds for the foundation,â€ Oâ€\Malley said. â€œThe foundation is to make sure the cupola is stable and will be locked and secured in place. The new cupola will be large and tall, and it needs to withstand the wind.â€
She will be applying to the state Commission on Culture and Tourism for the additional funding.
Mayor Anthony Staffieri had hoped to have the main cupola installed on the building before Derby Day on June 20.
â€œIt will be fabricated by then, but it wonâ€\t be in place on top of the building by then,â€ Staffieri said. â€œSheila is hard at work to get more grant money, so it is just a matter of time before weâ€\ll have the new cupola installed.â€
The cupola is being built to resemble the one on top of the building years ago. A cupola is decorative, like the steeple on a church. The new cupola will be toward the front of the building and will be made of aluminum instead of wood, so it wonâ€\t need to be painted and wonâ€\t rot like the originals.
â€œIt will look like it did years ago,â€ Staffieri added. â€œI have seen pictures of it, and it will be beautiful.â€
Oâ€\Malley said the same company that built the opera houseâ€\s smaller cupola a year ago is preparing the large one. The Kentucky-based company, Campbellsville Industries, nicknamed â€œThe Steeple People,â€ specializes in historic cupola replications.
It cost about $40,000 for the foundation work for the smaller cupola, Oâ€\Malley said.
â€œHistoric preservation is worth it, but it is costly,â€ Oâ€\Malley said.
Once the exterior upgrades are finished, the city will focus on fixing up the inside of the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The city has been awarded a $25,000 grant for architectural drawings and specifications for the interior.
City officials expect it will take another couple of years before the facility is completely renovated and ready to become a regional performing arts center.
Nicole Cignoli, chairwoman of the incorporators of the Sterling Opera House, said tours of the building are being planned for Derby Day. The group is looking for volunteers to conduct the tours. For more information, contact Cignoli through the Web site www.saveoursterling.org
Community room planned at Derby opera house
By Melvin Mason
Updated: 05/04/2009 01:18:08 AM EDT
The Sterling Opera House at 106 Elizabeth St. in Derby.
DERBY — Signs of age are everywhere inside the Sterling Opera House on Elizabeth Street.
The paint is peeled off the walls and there’s that distinct old smell inside the building, which lets you know it hasn’t been used in a very long time.
Call it the scent of age.
Names of those who have visited over the years are scribbled on the walls and there’s a good amount of dust gathered on the 1,100 seats in the former theater.
But where some may see a cause lost to time, Mayor Anthony Staffieri and other city officials see a chance to give Derby some culture as well as to restore the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“It’s recording our history and keeping our history,” Staffieri said recently while touring the building, across from the Derby green.
Despite tough economic times, the city wants to get the Sterling Opera House open for business, even if it may have to be done piece by piece. The latest proposal is to restore a 3,000-square-foot room once used as the city’s aldermanic chambers for community events such as art exhibits and meetings.
Rich DiCarlo, director of the Valley Arts Council, is one of those backing the plan.
“People see it being used and it could spark some interest in the building. If people are using it and it’s not sitting there as a white elephant, interest will grow and spread,” he said.
“It takes one spark to light a fire,” added Sheila O'Malley, the city’s economic development director. She said the city will use a $25,000 matching grant from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and an expected $30,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven to pay for a design scope. The room restoration will cost more than $1 million, she said.
“We think once people get the opportunity to come in, they will look at the renovated room and envision what [the rest of the opera house] will be like,” she said. “It will be easier to visualize. It gives fundraisers a place to lay their hat on.”
The room restoration comes on the heels of the city spending $1 million in grant money to seal the building from the elements and birds that used to make their way inside. That project included renovating the exterior walls, installing windows and refurbishing two cupolas.
A full-scale renovation is expected to cost at least $10 million, including revamping the theater and replacing the existing seating with 700 to 900 new seats.
Over the years there have been several plans to reopen the building, but they all fell through.
Most recently, the city had a deal with the Ellington Group to renovate and reopen the opera house. The company gave the city a $10,000 deposit to start a $13 million renovation. However, the company missed several deadlines and Ellington’s principals were involved in legal wrangling for control of the company.
The city is focusing on redeveloping the interior of the Sterling through grants, although it still hopes to find a private benefactor to help finance it. Continuing to make progress on the revamp, the mayor said, will be key in getting more money down the road, he said.
“The state and the federal government want to see that you get their money and you do something with it,” Staffieri said. “This is why it’s important to keep going at this kind of pace.”
Staffieri said history and economic development are why remaking the Sterling makes sense. Staffieri talks about other cities and towns seeing revitalized downtowns with restored halls or theaters, including Waterbury and its Palace Theater.
“Small cities that are fortunate enough to have theaters and keep them in good operating condition, it generates tax dollars for them,” Staffieri said. “It’s culture,” the mayor added. “It’s people enjoying themselves, taking a time out once a week or once a month to treat themselves to a play, to a concert, to something that relaxes them. And it’s great for society.”
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Sterling Opera House to get new main cupola
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
By Michelle Tuccitto Sullo Naugatuck Valley Bureau Chief
DERBY â€" The historic Sterling Opera House will soon have a new main cupola on its roof.
The city is accepting bids for the necessary roof foundation and modification work, with packets due April 29.
Mayor Anthony Staffieri said he hopes to have the new cupola installed on the building before Derby Day on June 20, when thousands are expected to come to the downtown area.
â€œIt has to be fabricated, and we need to hire someone to make sure the area where it will sit is structurally sound,â€ Staffieri said. â€œIt is going to exactly resemble what the main cupola looked like years ago.â€
A cupola is decorative, like the steeple on a church. According to Staffieri, the cupola will be made of aluminum instead of wood.
â€œWe donâ€\t want to have to worry about rot or having to paint it,â€ Staffieri said. â€œThe old one was wooden and eventually rotted. We are looking to make the new one as maintenance-free as possible.â€
Sheila Oâ€\Malley, director of Economic and Community Development, said the same company that built the smaller cupola a year ago is preparing the large one, too. The Kentucky company, Campbellsville Industries, nicknamed â€œThe Steeple People,â€ specializes in historic cupola replications.
The opera houseâ€\s smaller cupola was installed in April 2008. The larger, main cupola will be toward the front of the building, according to Oâ€\Malley.
â€œIt will look like the little one, only bigger,â€ she said. â€œThe whole outside of the opera house will be done once this main cupola is on. Then weâ€\ll be focused on the interior.â€
The city received state funding for exterior upgrades to the building, and had about $80,000 left over, Oâ€\Malley said. The new cupola and installation costs will be covered by those remaining state funds, she said.
â€œIt has been like a puzzle â€" putting all the pieces together,â€ Oâ€\Malley said. â€œBoth of the original cupolas werenâ€\t maintained, and deteriorated.â€
Earlier this month, the city was awarded a $25,000 grant from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation for architectural drawings and specifications for the interior of the opera house.
The city has applied for a $30,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. The city plans to apply for construction funds through the state Commission on Culture and Tourism.
The Sterling Opera House was built in 1889 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was used as a theater until 1945 and housed city offices and a police station until 1965, then for years was left vacant and deteriorating.
The city is trying to restore the historic building to what it was like in its heyday.
City officials estimate that it could take another couple of years before the facility is completely renovated and ready to become a regional center for the performing arts.
â€œThe plan is to restore it so we can have professional, semi-professional and amateur theater,â€ Staffieri said. â€œStudent drama clubs can put on plays. The building can have conferences and concerts too.â€
In March, the city announced plans to proceed with the restoration on its own, abandoning the Ellington Group, which had been the sole bidder to lease the opera house, citing delays on the project.
Scaffolding to surround Sterling Opera House
KATE RAMUNNI CT Post
Article Last Updated: 06/26/2008 11:50:06 PM EDT
DERBY â€" Scaffolding will soon encompass the three walls of the Sterling Opera House as work begins on the outside of the historic building.
Kronenberg and Sons is doing the work on the Elizabeth Street building and plans to start within the next few weeks, Mayor Anthony Staffieri told the Board of Aldermen Thursday. The $825,000 project will sandblast the exterior, fix loose bricks, structurally strengthen the three outside walls and replace windows and doors in the building that is on the National Register of Historic Places. “They went today for the building permit and are ready to put the scaffolding up,” Staffieri said.
To accommodate the work, the board approved the closing of the old Fourth Street, an alley that runs alongside the building. The contractor also is working to accommodate the state Superior Court on the right of the building, and the owner of the former SNET building on the left that is also under construction.
“We want to make sure there is access to the courthouse,” he said.
The work will take four to six months to complete, Staffieri said, “hopefully sooner than that.” However long it takes, the scaffolding will have to remain in place, he said.
Several months ago, the building’s small cupola was replaced, and its main cupola will, too, if funds allow, Staffieri said.
“It’s an old structure, and with work like this sometimes you will come across something that was not bid on [for the project],” he said. “If [the scope of the work] doesnâ€™t change, then we should have enough money left over for the main cupola.â€
â€œWe would like to have the money to do the main cupola,” Economic Development Director Sheila O'Malley said, but if not, she will work on finding other grant money for that.
Years ago, the state awarded the grant money to the city for the opera house, but work hasn’t been set until now.
Alderwoman Bev Moran questioned why it appears that there are open windows at the top of the building. “It certainly looks like they are,” she said.
Building Inspector Dave Kopjanski said he will make sure the windows are closed. “We don’t want any more pigeons,” he said, referring to past problems at the opera house with pigeons living in the empty structure and filling it up with their droppings.
Sterling Opera House “Open House”
On Saturday, June 21, 2008, the Sterling Opera House will be open to small tours from 10AM till 4PM. This event is in conjunction with the celebrations of “Derby Day”. Come on down to visit this Grand Old Lady" from Derby’s historic past.
The New Haven Register
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Posted on Sat, May 24, 2008
1 company submits bid on Sterling Opera House
By Marianne Lippard , Register Correspondent
DERBY â€" Only one company submitted a bid to lease the Sterling Opera House, but city officials are optimistic that plans for the building can be realized.
A bid prepared by the Ellington Group LLC said the company is prepared to spend up to $13 million to renovate the 119-year-old structure. Mayor Anthony Staffieri said the Sterling would be used for digital media and live theater.
â€œOur lovely lady is going to be resurrected. Weâ€™re going to put a new dress on her,â€ Staffieri said.
The Board of Aldermen recently voted to go out to bid to lease the building. Bidders had to agree to complete the interior and exterior restoration and provide proof of financial ability to finish the work.
Staffieri said the Ellington Group has interesting plans for the building and appears to have the funds to complete the project.
â€œThey see our opera house as an important element to their overall plan,â€ Staffieri said. â€œTo me it feels like Iâ€™m in a dream until I see the work. I just hope things keep going according to the plan outlined for me.â€
Ellington Group is seeking a 99-year lease. The theater, which previously had 1,200 seats, would have 900 seats after the renovation.
Staffieri said that once the theater is renovated, it would draw more businesses to Derby. He noted that the theater would help not only Derby, but also neighboring cities like Ansonia and Shelton.
Last month, a new cupola was put on the opera house. The cupola project cost about $50,000, funded by grant money. The city also has state and federal funds for other upgrades, such as securing the buildingâ€™s exterior walls.
Aldermanic President Kenneth Hughes said that the aldermen didnâ€™t know whether to expect any bids on such a large and complicated project. The Sterling, built in 1889, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was used as a theater until 1945, then housed city offices and a police station. It has been vacant for years.
Hughes said details of the deal will be outlined in a lease agreement. Ellington Group would need to set time lines for the construction and meet historical standards during the renovations.
â€œItâ€™s pretty exciting stuff. The opera house has been vacant for a long time,â€ Hughes said.