Fire-damaged Chester Playhouse expected to reopen in spring 2023
Municipality of Chester, provincial government contributing total of $400K toward the rebuild
A longtime fixture for the arts community in the seaside Nova Scotia village of Chester is expected to reopen by spring of 2023, about two years after it was heavily damaged in a fire just weeks before the completion of a major refurbishment.
Andrew Chandler, executive director of the Chester Playhouse, said Thursday having the 80-year-old building meet current fire requirements proved impossible, so fire consulting firm RJ Bartlett Engineering Ltd. was hired to develop an alternative compliance plan.
The plan incorporates a number of measures to make the building as safe as possible and meet codes, including the addition of a fire curtain on the stage.
"In the event that there was a fire on stage ... the construction is such that the other two sections of the building would be sealed off with a two-hour fire rating, giving folks plenty of time to escape the building and for fire crews to arrive and extinguish the fire," Chandler told CBC Radio's Information Morning Halifax.
The fire broke out June 11, 2021, and briefly spread to a neighbouring building before being contained. At the time, fire officials said the fire itself appeared confined to the attic, although there was water damage throughout. There were no injuries.
Chandler said Thursday the cause of the fire was never determined.
At the time of the fire, the playhouse was undergoing renovations that began in September 2020 to make the building more accessible and able to operate all year. The federal and provincial governments spent almost $800,000 on the work, with another $500,000 or so from private donations.
The building was fully insured at the time of the fire, said Chandler. However, he said more money was needed to cover the extra measures being taken with this rebuild.
This week, the municipality and the province said they would each contribute $200,000 toward the theatre's rebuild.
Allen Webber, the warden of the Municipality of Chester, said he has been going to the playhouse since he was 15 years old. Now 65, Webber said the playhouse continues to be an "extremely important" part of the community.
When the theatre eventually reopens, Chandler said it shouldn't be noticeably different from the outside. The inside will feature upgrades that were part of the original refurbishment plan.
"It won't be quite the same playhouse, but we're seizing the opportunity with this extensive rebuild to improve on things that we couldn't in the initial project and make it a safer, more accessible, better functional space so we can last for the next 80 years," said Chandler.
With files from Information Morning Halifax
To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.
By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.
Become a CBC Account Holder
Join the conversation Create account
Already have an account?