The recently restored State Theatre

World’s Largest Theater Restoration Project: Teamwork Required!

Behold the rejuvenated State Theatre. Part of the final phase of a major entertainment complex restoration in downtown Cleveland, the repaint of the historic 3,193-seat theater was a collaborative effort of the Playhouse Square Foundation and two experienced contracting firms.

Researching the right colors

EverGreene Architectural Arts, a New York-based firm that has done restoration work for more than 300 historic theaters across the country, was tasked with the overall design and selecting a color scheme appropriate to the theater, which was built in 1921 but almost razed in the 1970s before being saved by public outcry and fundraising efforts.

Through extensive forensic and archival research, EverGreene arrived at a palette of 15 colors from the Sherwin-Williams collection in its final design.

“These are based loosely on what we believe were the historic colors, interpreted for modern sensibilities and other factors like advances in lighting,” says Jeff Greene, president of EverGreene Architectural Arts.

“Playhouse Square is leading the charge in the renaissance of Cleveland.”

Complementary skills

Decorative painting specialists from EverGreene teamed up at the job site with a crew from The Dependable Painting Company, one of the top commercial painting firms in the Greater Cleveland area. Founded in 1928 by H.C. Hansen (great-grandfather to current owners Cindy Friedmann and Don Hansen), the company has extensive restoration experience and previously worked with EverGreene on projects like the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square.

The State Theatre restoration was a collaborative effort of EverGreene Architectural Arts of New York and The Dependable Painting Company of Cleveland. Paint crews of the two firms pose on the stage with the Playhouse Square facilities staff
The State Theatre restoration was a collaborative effort of EverGreene Architectural Arts of New York and The Dependable Painting Company of Cleveland. Paint crews of the two firms pose on the stage with the Playhouse Square facilities staff.

“When we have a project in Cleveland that requires additional painters, we’ve been able to stay competitive by working with Dependable,” Greene says. “Our companies complement each other well. We’re able to play off our respective strengths.”

Time crunch

Among the many challenges, the two-month time frame to complete the project was the biggest, say both contractors. Scaffolding had to be erected. Major plaster repairs were needed, and over 60 decorative molds had to be cast. Wallcoverings and fabric panels had to be designed, created and installed. All surfaces had to be cleaned. There was glazing and guilding to do along with the painting and priming. So logistics were crucial.

“The short window required us to work very efficiently,” Greene says.

Coatings choices key to success

Top-quality products were also important to achieve a great look and ensure the longevity of such a high-profile paint job.

“We used Emerald® Matte on a majority of the job,” Friedmann says. “It is a wonderful product that flows well, and the coverage is fantastic. It also helps that it is self-priming.”

Pro Industrial™ Pre-Catalyzed Water Based Epoxy was applied on the trim.

“We use it all the time,” Friedmann says. “In our opinion that is one of the best paints that Sherwin-Williams manufactures. It’s very durable and flows and hardens like an oil-based paint. Plus, it’s a low-odor paint with low VOCs.”

ArmorSeal® Tread-Plex™ Water Based Acrylic paint (in red) was used on the concrete floor below the seats. “It’s a non-skid, easy-to-use paint and it wears very well,” she says.

Excellent customer service from their paint supplier was another essential ingredient in the project’s success.

Stellar service was a savior

“Sherwin-Williams has been a great partner,” Friedmann says. “Our rep and our store were aware that we would be using a lot of Emerald paint on this job, so they were more than ready for us. Having our commercial store within a half-mile of the project was very convenient. Deliveries were there whenever we needed them.”

For Greene, the 4,000-plus Sherwin-Williams store network has proven to be a valuable asset for his company. “As a nationwide contractor, we know we can be assured of top-of-the-line materials and excellent service anywhere we go,” he says.

On to the next phase

With the State Theatre completed, the contractors are currently working on the last phase of the Playhouse Square project, the restoration of the Ohio Theatre. Saved from the wrecking ball in the 1970s, the recreation of this gem completes the restoration of Playhouse Square’s five historic theaters, the largest theater restoration project in the world.


This article was written by PPC Editor Mike Starling and was originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of the magazine. Photo by Ken Blaze. You can learn more about the theater restoration project at playhousesquare.org.


See more work by these contractors

The Dependable Painting Company
EverGreene Architectural Arts