It’s already hosted ballet classes, a prom and now an Astoria City Council meeting.
But at the end of the gathering Monday night, a big red ribbon and a giant pair of scissors made it official – one ‘snip,’ and the Paulson Pavilion is officially open for business.
“What a fitting room for the family,” Eric Paulson said. “We’re honored to be part of Astoria.”
The Paulson Pavillion, at roughly 5,000 square feet in the Liberty Theater Complex along Duane and 12th streets, has been restored to the tune of nearly $800,000.
Paulson, owner of Lektro, made a contribution of $100,000 in honor of his family. Other contributors included the city’s Astor East Urban Renewal District at $386,000, as well as a grant from the Ford Family Foundation at $75,000, and donations by hundreds of community members.
“We see this as a legacy to the whole community, especially a legacy to Eric and his family,” said Liberty Executive Director Rosemary Baker-Monaghan, adding that a published list with the name of each person who donated to the project is in the works.
“Hampton Affiliates, at the Warrenton mill, gave us all of the framing wood for this room. And when the guys at the mill found out that it was going here, they kind of sorted and picked out the best stuff, even though all of it’s good. They even rounded the edges of the two-by-fours so that they would be nicer when they got here.
“And every name on that list is a similar story of how the people support the Liberty Theater and what a tremendous community treasure it is.”
Last year, the space was stripped to its bones to begin both seismic upgrades and historic renovations, and now hosts a large room for conferences, receptions and other gatherings. Similar in size to the McTavish Room, the room can also be divided up into three studio spaces.
Astoria School of Ballet hosts classes in the space.
Astoria High School held its prom in the upper-level room last month.
The Astoria City Council hosted its Monday night meeting in the room. The meeting ended with the ribbon cutting ceremony. Councilwoman Karen Mellin shared that her office used to be on the upper level in the space that is now the Paulson Pavilion, where water would pour onto her desk from the leaky roof. She noted how beautiful the space now is.
Mayor Willis Van Dusen also commented on how far the theater has come.
“We’re all so proud of this beautiful facility and beautiful theater, but when I talk about it, I like to talk about what could have been,” he said. “There are so many theaters around this country in small towns, towns bigger than Astoria, that have theaters that are no longer used and they’re boarded up and there is plywood over them, and they can be very difficult to reuse. So if we think of this magnificent building, that we’re all proud of ... and what could have been had we not come together as a team, and we did not have the leadership by Eric and many more because it’s a teamwork effort, what could have been.
“Everyone in this room, everyone in this entire community, in Clatsop County and Pacific County and the state of Oregon really deserves a round of applause.”
That applause was granted.
Additions and art
The upper level is now accessible through a new entrance built on Duane Street, which was formerly the second entrance to Columbia Travel. Inside, at the top of the stairway, hangs a poppy chandelier, hand-blown and crafted by John Cook Glass Studio and Gallery.
Above the area where council members sat Monday huangs a chandelier imported from Spain in honor of the Brownlies. A plaque will read, “This chandelier is dedicated to Nora and Roland ‘Vaughan’ Brownlie, whose first date was at the Liberty Theater in 1939, by Teresa and Don Accuardi.”
Eric Paulson also shared why the Liberty is a special place for his family. His great aunt was a piano player when the Liberty was a Vaudeville theater. His parents shared their first kiss at the theater.
His mother Violet and his sister Lenna were both in attendance Monday and helped cut the ribbon.
Also new to the space, near the north entrance to the Paulson Pavilion, is the new event office which will be used for conference registration, and will house a movable bar when needed for events.
There are two small lobby areas at each end of the Paulson Pavilion, where memorabilia is tastefully displayed.
The wood floor is partially original, discovered under three layers of flooring in the space. Parts of the floor are also recovered wood from the former home of Maddox Dance Studio, and the University of Pomona in California.
“It is 3⁄8th-inch solid beaehwood, which apparently was the site of a state championship,” Baker-Monaghan said. “Because it is solid wood, it will be a forever floor withstanding any necessary future sanding and refinishing with ease. It has been restored and Rickenbach Construction designed and built it as a permanently ‘sprung’ dance floor.”
One part of the renovation not yet complete is the catering kitchen, anticipated to be completed by the end of the summer.
“We have most of the needed equipment and are retrofitting it to suit the space,” Baker-Monaghan said. “We have just a few more items to purchase for completion. The beauty of this space is that five local caterers helped us design it, as they will be the ones to use it.”
Former City Councilman Peter Roscoe was one of the caterers who assisted, he and the rest of the Astoria City Council each received a gift from the Liberty Board of Directors – a seat named for them in the Liberty Theater.
“That is really nice,” Astoria City Councilwoman Arline LaMear said.
In addition to the Pavilion, the area along Duane Street has two leasable office spaces. The Astoria School of Ballet is in Suite 220, and author Jayne Elliot Townsend in Suite 222. Baker-Monaghan’s office is in Suite 224.
“One of the things you discover when restoring an historic building like the Liberty Theater is that you can always find five other things which would make sense to remodel and renovate at the same time,” Baker-Monaghan said. “We are currently working on the five other things! These include renovating the former Columbia Travel space at 12th and Duane for our new tenant’s arrival on Aug. 1.
“We are very pleased to be creating a trash and recycling area for use by Liberty Theater complex commercial lease tenants and ourselves. This will remove the garbage cans and recycling bins from the curbside and allow us to move the materials inside a space with a garage-style door. Gone will be the days of chasing paper down the windy streets of Astoria!”
She said Liberty Restoration Inc., also hopes to add heating, ventilation and air conditioning to the green room, more storage in the McTavish Room and upgrades to the McTavish Room kitchen.
“How many of the five other things we can complete depends on how far we can stretch our funded budget,” she said. “So we have been using the talents of local volunteers and recycling as much building materials as is possible towards this end.”