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Gotta Love Old Buildings

Discussion in 'Safety' started by Eboy87, Dec 5, 2008.

  1. Eboy87

    Eboy87 Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    I'm sitting in our black-box, right next door to the proscenium stage. Let's see, the building was built in 1929, and while the blackbox I'm in was installed only a few years ago, the PA has a few issues I've come to find out about.

    #1. It's winter in Chicago, which means plenty of static electricity. Every time someone gets zapped, it makes a pop in the PA. I can touch the floor and have the PA snap.

    #2. The elevators. Nothing like DC falloff current from the old motors leaking somewhere into ground. More of a problem in the proscenium space than the BB.
     
  2. TheSwami

    TheSwami Member

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    Oh man, old theaters are a real treat. The ancient proscenium space I'm working in all of January has some old fun touches.

    For example, the green room for the theater is under the stage itself, with stairs leading down to it backstage on either side, but that's not the funny part. The funny part is that there's an old payphone at the bottom of one stairwell, and the main telephone relay box is at the bottom of the other stairwell. Instead of running the phone cable along the existing conduit on the ceiling of the green room, the cable runs up through a hole in the deck, up behind the fly rail, up to the grid at the top of the flytower, along the grid, back down the opposite wall, through another hole in the deck, and into the switch box.

    Why run 50' of cable when you can run 350'?

    73
     
  3. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

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    Heck, I've run into situations like that in brand new faciliites. It is amazing how 'creative' Electricians can sometimes be in running conduit.

    I worked in one historic theatre where we had to get approval from the internal preservation group wherever anything planned might change or impact any original systems or elements. Then again, how many large theatres have an air conditioning system for the main house that is almost 80 years old and still functioning, along with still using portions of the original 1929 dimmer system.
     
  4. TheSwami

    TheSwami Member

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    Woah, what kind of dimmering equipment is still around from back then? Are we talking Piano Board resistance dimmers, or is that still too modern?

    73
     
  5. TimMiller

    TimMiller Well-Known Member

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    Ah, the old Frankenstein dimmers, i have been in a few theaters in which they are still in use. I was in one that had those (some were still in use), then salt water dimmers, which were disconnected naturally, then they had some old strand century varacs (which were quite scary looking) then next to all this they had a ETC sensor rack. Kinda neat seeing the whole lighting history, yet sort of a waste of space in the SR wing. There is a old place here in town that still uses varac's for their house light control. The whole system is quite scary and makes some very weird sounds when it dims. In the back of the booth, which i didnt use due to the fear of being electrocuted (all of the varacs sat right behind the people in the booth, and there were all sorts of arrays of wire hanging everywhere). Only thing about as scary as the booth was their elevator, in which you would hold down the button until the elevator comes to the floor and the doors open, Then you would step in and hold the button to the floor you wanted until you heard a whole series of relays click (you had to hold the button until the relays were done clicking or you would get stuck) then it would take you to the floor and stop, you then had to hold the door open button until you heard another set of relays click and the door open. (I opted for the stairs)
     
  6. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

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    Okay, here's a picture. To quote one summary:
    The original electrical service for the building came in on huge, exposed solid copper bus bars. Both the dimmers and electrical service have been updated to more modern technology over the years but some of the original components were left operational and remain so today. The air conditioning system has had the chiller replaced, I believe they are on the third one, but the remainder of the system is circa 1929 and still in use, as is the rebuilt pipe organ.

    Correction: Apparently some portions of the air conditioning system were updated in 1947, so those portions are 'only' 60 years old.
     

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    Last edited: Dec 18, 2008
  7. Sony

    Sony Active Member

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    Occupation:
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    Those lever dimming systems are quite a sight to see. While I've never used one I would love to see and mess around with a working one some day in my life, although I would never want to run a show on one.
     
  8. FMEng

    FMEng Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Cool photo! That would be worth taking a picture of with a better camera. I'll bet some lighting took many hands in coordination to acheive.
     
  9. tjrobb

    tjrobb Active Member

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    Location:
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    I have a dream, old, theatre I work for.
    Theatre Cedar Rapids was built in 1928 (?) as a Vaudeville house, the (RKO) Iowa Theatre.
    We have exposed bus bars STILL powering tenets on the 2nd floor, 2-phase power to several locations, 70' "drops of death" from the attic to the sub-sub-basement, a wood-framed stage, a fire exit hallway that I have tried and failed to get power to (don't ask), an abandoned structural air-handling (duct) system, and a bunch of disused arc rheostats. Oh, and did I mention that they never added a loading bridge when they installed the new rigging system in the early '80's?
    Sadly, the Iowa floods of last June inflicted heavy damage on a lot of the building, but I found two new things in the beautiful structure: the gold-pressed walls and the original hand-built under-balcony house lights. Oh, we DID save the organ from 24"+ of standing water.
     
  10. Grommet

    Grommet Member

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    i worked on a show in a middle school auditorium. and i found the difference between auditorium and theater.

    it was built in the 50s and upgraded to some CD80 dimmers. According to the dimmer rack there were 36 dimmers. 6 of the dimmers were left unused as i could not find where they were wired to.

    the electrician who wired the dimmers during an upgrade wired it in a form that made sense to the electrician or made the wires neat behind the CD80s.
    Dimmer 1 went to the middle of the 2nd electric.
    dimmer 2 was some where on the 3rd...it was in no particular pattern.


    for front lighting it had two slits way up in the ceiling. to get there you must climb the steepest stairs i have ever seen. when you are up there you go through a short door and land in the matrix of support cable and narrow creaky walkways with missing boards.

    It was well lit. some one kept going up there to replace the bulbs leaving the dead bulbs scattered about the chicken wire/spray on ceiling.

    I found a Styrofoam cup from Mcdonalds up there. It must date to 1985.

    And one cannot forget about the likely hood of asbestos
     

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  11. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    From the looks of it there doesn't seem to be an immediate danger of asbestos. Looks like standard blown-in insulation to me, but who am I to say it doesn't contain asbestos. Heck, I'd find it pretty cool to work in a theatre like that. Just the once though.

    I can see where you're coming from in your 'difference between auditorium and theatre' analogy but technically it's incorrect. A theatre is the entire building including lobby, offices, shop, etc. Auditorium is the room in which performances are held within the theatre. "Theatre" does sound much more official and professional than "Auditorium" and I think that's where you got your comparison from.

    I've done many shows for Denton Community Theatre (production company) at the Campus Theatre (facility) in the Ben E. Keith Auditorium (performance space). All on the same stage.
     
  12. Grommet

    Grommet Member

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    my standpoint of theater to auditorium lies in the flexibilities.

    for front lighitng i had just those 2 slits. each slit can fit 4 fixtures. i could not hit the upstage area from there. The place was not made to have lights to be moved about.

    I was really only up there to swap out the 500watt frensels with something with a real throw.
     
  13. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    I see what you're saying. There's a high school in my area which is fairly new (1994) that only has 14 channels on the FOH catwalk, yet a full fly system and 500 seat capacity. Apparently it was designed to be more of a music hall before the theatre program was introduced. They just received a new lighting and dimming package a few years ago because they were using Century radials (hand-me-downs from the old Community Theatre).

    Funny thing is, my Alma Mater, Denton High School has always had a huge theatre and full theatre program for it's 50+ years in existence. Just got a $9m theatre renovation in 2001 (has it really been that long???) with 2 96ch. Sensor Racks, Expression3 console and Strand/Altman lighting.

    The new high school, Guyer has 3 Sensor 96's and ETC/Altman/Strand lighting. Something like 48 dimmers FOH.
     
  14. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    Wow .. the high school I came from (and guest design at now) in Arlington has pretty much a MD288 half-rack for the whole thing. It's a challenge lighting that place. FOH? 6 dimmers. But you know, it's fun in that weird sort of way (the same way that I also want to do a show once on a piano board and on a three-preset, just for the experience).
     
  15. Grommet

    Grommet Member

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    it was fun lighting this show. we had the 4 dimmers for FOH the permantly fixed strip lights and we purchased some PAR 56s for some side lights.

    i had one kid on the Mantrix board and another kid on the little lexicon board that was connected to the side lighting.

    they loved it. understood it and how it can be bigger.

    What i try to convey to the kids is that theater is suppose to be very flexible. We are suppose to make this large boring room transport a few hudred people to another world/time. I want to be able to take all the lights down so i can put them some where else.

    The new theaters are more flexible but are still ridged at the same time. Since the cable is already ran from the dimmers to the electric or from the sound mixer to the stage you don't really get the whole picture. It can take awhile to convey that its a dimmer not just a numbered socket.
     
  16. Grommet

    Grommet Member

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    it was fun lighting this show. we had the 4 dimmers for FOH the permantly fixed strip lights and we purchased some PAR 56s for some side lights.

    i had one kid on the Mantrix board and another kid on the little lexicon board that was connected to the side lighting.

    they loved it. understood it and how it can be bigger.

    What i try to convey to the kids is that theater is suppose to be very flexible. We are suppose to make this large boring room transport a few hudred people to another world/time. I want to be able to take all the lights down so i can put them some where else.

    The new theaters are more flexible but are still ridged at the same time. Since the cable is already ran from the dimmers to the electric or from the sound mixer to the stage you don't really get the whole picture. It can take awhile to convey that its a dimmer not just a numbered socket.
     
  17. Grommet

    Grommet Member

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    it was fun lighting this show. we had the 4 dimmers for FOH the permantly fixed strip lights and we purchased some PAR 56s for some side lights.

    i had one kid on the Mantrix board and another kid on the little lexicon board that was connected to the side lighting.

    they loved it. understood it and how it can be bigger.

    What i try to convey to the kids is that theater is suppose to be very flexible. We are suppose to make this large boring room transport a few hudred people to another world/time. I want to be able to take all the lights down so i can put them some where else.

    The new theaters are more flexible but are still ridged at the same time. Since the cable is already ran from the dimmers to the electric or from the sound mixer to the stage you don't really get the whole picture. It can take awhile to convey that its a dimmer not just a numbered socket.
     
  18. Grommet

    Grommet Member

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    it was fun lighting this show. we had the 4 dimmers for FOH the permantly fixed strip lights and we purchased some PAR 56s for some side lights.

    i had one kid on the Mantrix board and another kid on the little lexicon board that was connected to the side lighting.

    they loved it. understood it and how it can be bigger.

    What i try to convey to the kids is that theater is suppose to be very flexible. We are suppose to make this large boring room transport a few hudred people to another world/time. I want to be able to take all the lights down so i can put them some where else.

    The new theaters are more flexible but are still ridged at the same time. Since the cable is already ran from the dimmers to the electric or from the sound mixer to the stage you don't really get the whole picture. It can take awhile to convey that its a dimmer not just a numbered socket.
     
  19. renegadeblack

    renegadeblack Active Member

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    Location:
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    I've gotta ask it, is there a castle that is occasionally mistaken for a hunting lodge?
     
  20. nobl13

    nobl13 Member

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    Location:
    Bangor, Maine, United States
    The theatre I work in (The Bangor Opera House) was actually built in 1914 and burned down a year or two later. Then it was rebuilt again in 1920. Unfortunately, theatre being what it is, the building was converted into a movie theatre, the box seats were walled over, the stepped seating was replaced with a rake... etcetera.

    Fun fact however; since the building is constructed in the side of a hill, the stage is actually around 10 feet UNDERGROUND. The back and wing walls are mostly bedrock.
     

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