Raising the roof at the Papermill


April 11, 2011
LINCOLN—Last Thursday, as the strains of "Scotland the Brave" played on a bagpipe, a steel roof beam was hoisted into place by a crane onto the roof of what will in a few months be the Papermill Theatre's new home: Jean's Playhouse.

There was applause as workers attached the beam to the metal superstructure.

"This was a day we've been praying for for a long time," Brian Baker, president of the theater's Board of Trustees said before things got underway.

Once they did, Baker addressed the several dozen people present, speaking of the 25 years that had led to that moment. The theater used to be in a former building that belonged to the Franconia Paper Company, thus the name Papermill Theatre. Baker said the theater, which has opened every summer since, has showed some of the best shows in the state.

The brick building that held the theater for 20 years was torn down in the fall of 2009 to make room for a new large hotel being built by InnSeason Resorts, which owned the property. The rest of the remaining mill buildings were also torn down at the same time.

The building, which is on a 1.78 acre lot donated by the town of Lincoln and is next to the Riverwalk Park and trail, is named for Jean Hallager, whose family has contributed a hundreds of thousands of dollars to the theater over the years.

Jean died several years ago but her husband, Bill Hallager, remains on the board of trustees and was present at the ceremony last week.

"This has been a dream for more than 30 years. I am excited it is about to become a reality," Hallager said. "I'm sure Jean is equally pleased in her heavenly abode."

Hallager said their four children would be present for the opening ceremony for the building in September.

The theater is expected to open in September in time for the Highland Games, the largest annual event in Lincoln. It will host an event the first night of the three-day event.

The building project so far is on schedule and within its budget. And is expected to be ready in September. The building is estimated to cost $2.6 million, and $2.3 million has been raised so far.

Al Simensen, chairman of the fundraising committee, noted these are challenging times but that they have still been able to raise the money. Soon there will be seat sales, which are expected to raise an additional $150,000.

Most of the people present signed the steel beam, which will be visible from a mezzanine level in the back of the theater behind the stage.

"They will be there forever," said one of the construction foremen.

Last summer the shows were held at Loon Mountain, as they will be this summer. After this summer however, the theater will be going home.

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