The historic Saenger Theater preservation
The Saenger Theater restoration was a project that we did with Broadmoor Construction Company in New Orleans. The job entailed the total renovation of the theater, badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Central City Millworks provided the millwork for the project that included virtually all of the visible woodwork in the theater.
Initially, we were involved in the preparation phase. We disassembled and removed the historic woodwork that we were going to restore and re-use during the renovation phase.
Our part of the renovation phase included all the concessions and bars. There were nine bars to build throughout the whole project plus the concession stands. We built all of the bars from beautiful Sapele Mahogany raised panels to really give an elegant look. Once built, we then stained and clear coated them.
Additionally, we did all the wood paneling in a 3000 sq. ft. executive lounge as well as the numerous paneled columns within the room. And we built the executive lounge bar with liquor storage cabinets that were all mahogany with the raised panels for a rich, high-end look.
We also fabricated the handrails throughout the building. That proved to be a big challenge because there were over 600 linear feet of handrails. The existing historic handrails came down to pilasters on half-columns that projected out from the wall. The railings would end, and then pick back up on the other side of the pilaster. So, people who were using the handrails would have to let go of the railing above a pilaster and grab the handrail on the other side of the pilaster.
The Life Safety Code requires an uninterrupted railing to help guide people out during life safety emergencies. Obviously, in the smoke of a fire you’re not going be able to see the handrail which is your guide to quickly get you out of the building. So we had to make flat turns in the railings using stair parts that we fabricated. The stair parts would guide your hand around the pilasters on the half-columns that were throughout the building. At the landings, the railings had to flat down to meet the Life Safety requirements, and then go flat for certain distance. To accomplish that, because this is a historic handrail, we had to use some pretty intricate templates and shaper equipment in our shop. Of course that required the skill of some of our incredible craftsman as well.
The stair parts were flat turns that had to turn to the right or turn to the left with 90 degree turns. We also had to have them ease up and ease down. The combination of all these stair parts had to be put together so that there was an uninterrupted, continuous handrail from the top floor all the way down to the exit out of the building.
An additional challenge with the railing was that we had to match both the wood and the finish of the new replica railing that we built where it connected to the historic railing. We were able to meet that challenge and in the end, produced incredible handrails throughout the building.
We also built the ladies’ and men’s bathrooms throughout the building. That phase involved lavatory cabinetry, vanity cabinets, and customs doors that fit the existing arched passageways. Everything was built in mahogany, stained, and clear-coat finished.
Additionally, we built all of the lockers and counters and make-up areas in the dressing rooms for the men and the women. We fabricated p-lam cabinets, desks, and filing cabinets for all of the Saenger management offices.
All in all, Central City Millworks was contracted for an extensive scope of work to save a historic building from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. And, the preservation of Saenger Theater was an important project in preserving the character of New Orleans, and we were proud to be a part of it.