The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Dena Martin
The Times 

Historic Liberty Theater Upgrades

HVAC is replaced and a new roof is next


Courtesy Photo

The eastbound lane of Highway 12 was temporarily closed the morning of July 4 to allow for the replacement of a new HVAC system at the Liberty Theater. The system will be more energy-efficient and, most importantly, is nearly silent according to theater manager Kirsten Shober. A crane truck, brought in from the Tri-Cities was used to install the new HVAC system for the Liberty Theater.

DAYTON – Things are pretty quiet around Dayton's historic Liberty Theater these days – at least when it comes to the air conditioning and heating system. Theater Manager Kirsten Schober says she is thrilled with the newly installed HVAC system that is not only ultra energy-efficient, but also "completely silent."

Schober said that when the Touchet Valley Arts Council (TVAC) was formed, the organization agreed to put 5% of ticket revenues into a long-term maintenance fund for planned upgrades and repairs.

"Replacing the heating and air conditioning was right on schedule and we had the funds in place to take care of it," she said.

Replacing the roof is scheduled for later this summer and is expected to boost energy efficiency even more.

"We're aware of some concerns with the flat roof , such as skylights that need filled in, and we want to address them before they become issues," Schober said. Funds are also available for that planned project.

Some replacements, like the recently replaced seats and new projector purchase, take place before they are scheduled. In those instances grants and community fundraisers have helped fill in where funds fell short.

Schober said that TVAC board member Greg Skiffington, who has extensive construction experience, oversaw the HVAC project from start to finish.

"My board members are a godsend. They all have different specialties which takes a load off my shoulders," Schober said.

The Liberty Theater first opened in 1910 under the name Dreamland Theater and became the Liberty Theater in 1917. Fire ravaged the building in 1917 but the theater reopened its doors in 1921. The Liberty closed its doors temporarily in the 1960s and "permanently" in the 1970s. For 30 years it was used only for storage and the occasional Halloween haunted house.

In 1994 a group of citizens formed the Touchet Valley Arts Council and approached the law firm of Nealey and Marinella, the building owner, about restoring the building. Law partners Terry Nealey and Scott Marinella agreed to give the group the building if they repaired the leaking roof.

The community pitched in and donated hundreds of volunteer hours to make the needed repairs. Over the next seven years, TVAC and community members raised funds and procured grants to allow a full restoration of the Liberty Theater. In November of 2001, the newly restored theater, opened its doors to the community with a live performance of The Music Man.

TVAC continues to oversee the Liberty Theater which is home to first-run movies, live community musical productions, film festivals, live performances, and the Missoula Children's Theater, each year.


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