Reworked Haven sign returned to theater front

Published 5:00 am Thursday, October 16, 2008

Eleven weeks ago, Meridian-based Mitchell Signs cut down theHaven’s rusty main sign, secured it to a truck and drove it tocentral Mississippi for repairs while local contractor Paul Jacksonand Son, Inc. worked to rebuild the faded facade of thetired-looking theater.

Wednesday morning, the work of both companies united, as thecompletely rebuilt tower was raised back to its perch atop arenovated, freshly-painted façade, bringing the approximately$180,000 second phase of the Haven’s multi-year restoration projectto near completion.

When the rebuilt marquee is put back in place Thursday, therestoration of the theater’s façade will be complete, and the Haven- on the outside, at least – will be born again.

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“It’s not an eyesore on that street anymore,” said BrookhavenLittle Theatre President Tommy Sproles. “From where we came from -a building that people didn’t even know what it was anymore – nowyou can look at it tell it’s an actual building for use.”

Sproles and other Haven caretakers plan to properly celebratethe return of the four-shaded blue and white tower with sharp redletters – and the bright new front entrance to the building – byflipping on the sign’s neon lights at the BLT membership party onSaturday, Oct. 25.

Then, the bright lights will promote awareness for the historicHaven and efforts to revive it, Sproles said. He hopes the sign’sneon glow will spark interest, draw more Brookhavenites into BLT’smembership and, hopefully, allow rejuvenated fundraising effortsfor the expensive interior renovations scheduled to begin in2009.

“It will definitely catch people’s eye,” Sproles said of therestored sign and façade. “Now that we have a nice plastic surgeryon the face, we’ll see if we can cure the cancer on theinside.”

Though not quite surgery, extensive work went into the sign.

Mitchell Signs Account Executive Kyle Edmonds said the easything to do would have been to trash the sign and build a new one,but his company played by the rules – reshaping, rebuilding andrepainting the sign to historic specifications as required by theMississippi Department of Archives and History.

“We went by the architect’s specs to try to match it as close aswe could to original,” he said. “The goal was to make it look likeit did when it was first put up, and we’re very, very pleased withthe outcome.”

Edmonds said his company reused all the parts that weresalvageable and fabricated replacement parts where necessary. Thesign has been equipped with all new, handcrafted neon lighting.

“We worked hard on this,” he said. “I think everyone will bepleased to see the final project. When you see it for the firsttime when it’s all lit up, it’s going to be awesome.”

Save the Haven Committee Chairwoman JoAnna Sproles said thecompletion of Phase Two is not just awesome for the Haven, butawesome for the city’s blossoming, well cared-for downtowndistrict.

Her and other Haven officials’ plans are to offer the theater tothe entire city.

“We want to continue to do more than just hold a few plays ayear,” she said. “We want to extend an invitation to community andcivic groups to also use the building. We would like to be able tohave concerts at the Haven between plays. We want to start openingthe doors and inviting groups in to do what they need to do.”

Sproles said Saturday night’s Brookstock at the Haven – morethan three hours of live music for $10, beginning at 7 p.m. – willbe a test of BLT’s vision. She said BLT members would monitor thetheater’s sound capabilities and take note of communitysupport.

The concert will also be an opportunity for BLT to beginfundraising anew for phases three, four and five of the Haven’srenovation project – interior renovations – which combined areestimated to cost more than $700,000.

T-shirts, posters and concessions will be sold, as will the $100tickets to the group’s upcoming $10,000 draw down, scheduled tocoincide with the membership party next weekend.

The sooner the money is raised, the sooner the renovations aredone and the sooner the Haven becomes – more or less – publicproperty, Sproles said.

“I want people to understand – you’re not supporting an actingclub,” she said. “You’re supporting a place that has the intentionto grow and mean something to a whole lot of people.”