April 16, 2020

BY LEIF GREISS | BRISTOL HERALD COURIER

Country music played as men used paint brushes to repoint the exterior masonry of the Paramount Performing Arts Center.

Their performance is the only one the entertainment venue will host while the COVID-19 pandemic keeps its doors closed.

This isn’t all bad, said Miles Marek, executive director of the Paramount. The pandemic forced the Paramount to temporarily close, but it allows for the first major exterior renovations the venue has seen in about 30 years.

“Like it or not, we are closed,” Marek said.

“We are going to make as good a use of this downtime as we can.”

The Paramount will turn 90 next year. Over the past several decades water has caused erosion, corrosion and destruction to the building’s exterior. Marek said the work they started in February has addressed the direst issues.

“It’s not just cosmetic, there is major structural repointing going on,” Marek said.

Marek said they expect to finish the first phase of renovations around the end of April. After that, two more phases will focus on the side walls and all other exterior surfaces, including the roof.

He anticipates they will complete all phases in six to nine months.

Marek said the often cash-strapped performing arts center couldn’t have gotten to this point alone. He thanked the “Friends of the Paramount,” a group organized by Bristol native and businesswoman Nancy DeFriece. The group is the reason they are able to get all the work done in one shot.

DeFriece said she grew up attending shows at the Paramount and knew she needed to do something when she saw some of the damage the Paramount had sustained over time.

“The Paramount means a lot to our region, I hated to see what was happening due to the moisture,” DeFriece said.

She said getting everyone together wasn’t hard. She picked up the phone and called friends and acquaintances that she knew cared about the Paramount. They formed the “Friends of the Paramount” in April 2019.

Within six months of their first meeting, the group raised enough to cover every phase of exterior renovations.

“This is a great group of women, most of the funds were raised through them not me,” DeFriece said.

Jim and Barbara Street pledged to fund the first phase of restoration and Jim Street’s company JA Street & Associates is overseeing the work. Carol Jones, through her company Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Jones Property Group, made a donation and Elliott Moore helped get the Ballad Health Foundation to donate to the project as well.

Other donors include Ann and John Tickle, the Massengill-DeFriece Foundation Inc., The United Co. Foundation and the James W. and Frances Gibson McGlothlin Foundation.

Marek declined to say how much money has been raised for renovations. But he hopes there will be money leftover once the exterior repairs are made.

Moisture damage is not just limited to the outside of the Paramount. Over time it has seeped into the building causing damage to the interior as well.

Paint and plaster is peeling, the Italianate wall murals are flaking off and the interior carpeting needs to be completely replaced.

Marek said they recently refurbished the women’s bathroom, but the men’s bathroom has yet to receive the same treatment. He said they also hope to get a new audio system and digital cinema projection system, so they can show movies.