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Park Theater Ready for Showtime

Published Thursday Jan 6, 2022

Author Sean O'Keefe

The exterior of the Park Theatre. Courtesy photo.

A resident of Jaffrey, Caroline Hollister has devoted much of her nearly 80 years to making life better for others in her community. A relentless participant in countless community organizations, Hollister has been a perennial volunteer at the Jaffrey Civic Center, served as a historian to the local American Legion Auxiliary Unit and as the executive director for the U.S. State Department’s international business exchange program. Among her public-facing accomplishments, none embodies her altruistic spirit and flair for the dramatic more than the recently recreated Park Theatre in downtown Jaffrey.

“The original Park Theatre first opened in 1922 and quickly became the center of community life as a movie house and vaudeville theater for nearly 60 years,” says Hollister. “The theater was built by a local man in the barn behind his farmhouse.”

The original Park Theatre fell on hard times in the 1970s, eventually closing in 1976. It functioned as a retail store and warehouse for more than a decade before being repurposed as the back end of a bicycle repair business and frame-makers’ shop. In 2002, a group of citizens approached the owner about bringing the site back to its former glory.

“I was approached to join The Park Theatre Corporation in early 2005,” says Hollister of her initial involvement. “By June of 2006, we had raised more than $100,000 to secure the property. However, we quickly found out during the building inspection that the structure was not really a good candidate for rehabilitation. It needed to be razed and replaced altogether.”

It became apparent that the project to transform the nearly 200-year-old barn and farmhouse into a code-compliant, ADA accessible, and 21st century movie theater was going to be immense. As costs to replace the theater with a completely new building  came in, it was clear to everyone they needed additional help to raise a lot more money.

The auditorium, set to show a film. Courtesy photo.

“At that point, we hired a professional fundraiser who had lots of wonderful, creative ways to boost donations,” says Hollister. “One of the projects she proposed was a collection of sponsorship stars integrated into the lobby floor akin to the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. We loved the idea and approached our architects about how to make it happen.”

“It’s not often that we take on a design commission that lasts for more than a decade,” says Matt Pelletier, an associate with BKA Architects, the Boston-based firm hired in 2008. “Through the many iterations, the donor stars remained prominently important to the overall aesthetic of the building’s entrance. When the time came to realize that promise, we knew it needed to be something special.”

That special something began with a call to Premier Concrete Construction of Wilton. “Decorative concrete is constantly evolving,” says Owner Eric Traffie of the nearly endless possibilities of Bomanite products. “Those fantastic fundraising stars on that beautiful floor at the Park Theatre are an excellent example of what we can do.”

The lobby with sponsorship stars. Courtesy photo.

The first step was pouring specialized concrete into custom molds inset into the floor as finish-level construction started.

Once the bulk of the theater’s finishes were installed several months later, Premier returned to the site, removed the place-holder molds, and installed the customized stars.

During the pandemic, the theater curated classic movies that people can watch for free on its website. This past summer, the theater installed a 27-foot screen and speaker system to prepare for its grand opening this fall.

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