Denfeld News

Dec. 18, 2006
Duluth News Tribune

Splendor revealed
By Sarah Horner

After enduring years of deteriorating conditions and months of anxious anticipation, the Denfeld High School auditorium finally has been restored to its original glory.

Praises will be sung today for the newly refurbished space at the Denfeld Holiday Concert. It will be the first performance in the auditorium since the restoration.

“It looks great,” said Kerry Leider, property and risk manager for the Duluth school district. “When I first saw it finished I had the same impression I think most people will have when they see it — awe. It’s just a grand facility.”

After years of water damage from a string of leaky roofs, the 80-year-old auditorium, which once shone with ornate plasterwork, steel chandeliers and elegant drapes, started falling apart.

Caution tape was placed around seating sections threatened by loose and crumbling tiles, plaster and paint were chipping, the luster was worn off chandeliers and the curtains were faded.

“It was almost scary to be in there because you were afraid a piece of plaster would fall on your head,” said Ringo Kienitz, a junior who plays violin in the Denfeld orchestra.

The $1.2 million project began in June. Scaffolding covered the auditorium to create a false floor near the ceiling to allow workers to reach high corners. Molds were cast to recreate areas of deteriorating plaster, walls were painted and chandeliers were cleaned and rewired. A new copper roof, with a life expectancy of 70 to 100 years, also was installed, Leider said.

A few minor finishing touches, such as hanging the new curtains and waxing the stage floor, will be done over Christmas break.

“My biggest concern was that we weren’t going to be able to find craftsman around today that could restore this type of plasterwork with the quality of work we were expecting,” Leider said. “They did a great job. You can’t even tell what’s been restored and what’s original.”

The audience at tonight’s concert will walk into an auditorium that looks just at it did when it first opened 80 years ago.

“Some of the older alumni coming will be able to remember what it used to be like for them,” Anna Lonke, a junior and choir member, said. “The auditorium is what holds the Denfeld community together. It’s an honor to get to be the first group to sing in here.”

Tonight’s concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door. An official opening ceremony will take place sometime after Christmas.

“We had the best auditorium in Duluth,” Kyle Akervik, a junior and viola player, said while sitting in the new space. He said he and his classmates realized how lucky they’d been while forced to hold assemblies in the school’s gymnasium during the restoration.

“It’s great to have it back. It’s good to be home.”

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