League of Historical American Theatres visits Paramount

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 17, 2002

The historic Paramount Theatre is opening other people's eyes.

On Tuesday, the League of Historical American Theatres sent its members to Austin

Tom Dubuque, manager of the Historic Pabst Playhouse and Theater in Milwaukee was among the visitors.

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The group of 35 people will hold a summer conference in Minneapolis, but chose to visit some of Minnesota's and Wisconsin's historic show palaces before convening for official business.

Dubuque, a dentist, has been to Austin before.

"I saw the Paramount when it was a disco or nightclub toward the end of its career as a place of that sort," Dubuque said. "You can imagine how different it is today. There's definitely been a great improvement."

Built in 1929 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, the Paramount Theatre is a much revered Austin icon.

The Austin Area Commission for the Arts obtained non-profit status for the building in 1990.

Now, the Paramount's supporters are in the midst of a major fund-raising campaign to complete the restoration and make it ready for full cultural and fine arts use.

The dazzling marquee signals not only a place to go, but a place to show an important part of Austin's past.

Scott and Janet Anderson, Karyn Schneider and others were on hand Tuesday to hear from others who are restoring or managing historical playhouses, theaters and stage halls.

Dubuque was impressed with the restoration work at the Paramount Theatre, but had advice for the local volunteers.

"We have seen it so often in the past," he began, "A restoration project like this becomes a focal point of downtown rehabilitation and re-development. It literally brings people back downtown at a time when they're swarming to malls."

But Dubuque said restoration projects attract a great deal of attention from patrons of the arts and other citizens, who see an "old building made new again."

Dubuque said that presents a dilemma.

"They see this grand old building that has been restored and they think the project is over with and it has been a success, but they don't realize that frequently, the work goes on for years to restore the infrastructure of the building and to make it whole. That's the hard part. Keeping their interest alive over the dull things."

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at lee.bonorden@austindailyherald.com