Swift Creek Mill Theatre renovation to make it more modern, accessible
By Ashley McLeod, Staff Writer
Apr 19, 2013, 14:01
ASHLEY McLEOD/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT A two-story addition will be added to the rear of the Swift Creek Mill Theatre, which dates back to the 1600s.
CHESTERFIELD — A new two-story addition will shortly be added the historic building that houses the Swift Creek Mill Theatre.
The renovations, which will begin May 6, will help modernize the building and make the theater more accessible for the audience.
Jennifer Procise, the director of development and marketing for the theatre, said the renovations will give better access for the theater-goers.
“Our subscriber base has grown, but people are having trouble with the stairs,” Procise said. “We received that notification frequently enough that our board of directors really had to seriously take a look at it saying we love your shows, what you do, but the stairs are difficult.”
The stairs leading to the second floor, where productions take place, are difficult for some to use. Also, there is currently no handicapped access to the stage.
Procise also said that the renovation will also help the theater out moneywise.
“There are also some funding opportunities that we are not currently eligible for on a national and state level, that once we become ADA compliant we would have that eligibility,” Procise said.
The theatre, which is currently a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, will be able to receive several more grants from places like the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.
Artistic director Tom Width said the extra funding could improve the theater in many ways.
“We’ll be able to do much nicer things for the audience, with lighting and sound, and a lot of technical things which will allow us to dazzle the audience more in terms of production,” Width said.
The renovations will include adding an elevator, modernizing the kitchen and bathrooms, adding rows of wheelchair seating, and upgrading the lighting and sound equipment. Procise also said there are plans to purchase hearing impaired assistance devices.
The renovations, which will cost the theatre approximately $1 million, are anticipated to last six months, beginning at the end of the current production, “Honky Tonk Angels.”
The building, which will be 350 years old this year, was initially built for use as a gristmill in 1663. In 1965 the mill ceased production and was converted in a theatre, which it has remained as since.
The buildings historical aspect will not be affected during the renovations, and Width says the support from historical societies in the area has been tremendous.
“We’re keeping a historical property accessible for people to see it, be in it and use it,” Width said. “From the street, everything will look exactly the same.”
The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is also a historical landmark listed at the local and state level.