Vitrolite glass specialist Tim Dunn and Rivoli restoration organizers Patty Gallun-Hansen and Lisa Vogt. Dunn is a leading authority on the art deco-style glass, which he has reapplied to the facade of the 125-year-old theater in downtown Cedarburg.
Back in the black – glass
1936 exterior returns to Rivoli Theatre with installation of Vitrolite glass
By Lisa Curtis
News Graphic Staff
Cedarburg – St. Louis-based colored glass specialist Tim Dunn remembers the first time he drove through downtown Cedarburg last spring.
Dunn was on his way to meet those overseeing the restoration of the Rivoli Theatre who had solicited Dunn to reconstruct the 1930s-style black glass face on the building.Dunn at first thought it was an odd contrast to add the shiny black facade to a downtown dotted with 19th century stone buildings. It reminded him of the diamond pinky ring his mother had bought for his father later in his life, Dunn said.
His old German-born father had the rough, damaged hands of a man who spent many years using them in physical labor.
A diamond ring hardly seemed appropriate.
But the more Dunn envisioned it, the more the shiny black Rivoli theatre made sense.
"That's the little twinkle in a hard-working man's life," he told a group of people at a hard hat luncheon held recently to update supporters on the restoration project.
Dunn is one of the world's leading authorities on Vitrolite glass, a structural, pigmented glass popularized by the art deco period of the 1920s, '30s and '40s.
At any given time, Dunn has an estimated 15 tons of the glass in his home basement.
"I've pretty much cornered the market of the world on this," Dunn said.
So Dunn seemed the logical choice for those who are restoring the Rivoli back to its 1936 appearance, with its black glass face and old-time ticket booth in the front.
But applying Dunn's glass to the 15-year-old Rivoli building was no easy task.
Over the years, the building had become crooked and twisted – not an easy surface on which to apply 1,000 square feet of glass.
So the project organizers brought in JS Dahlman to right the building, said Mark Poellet, the Cedarburg-based architect overseeing the project.
Within the course of several months, the straightening was completed and Dunn began applying the glass.
Dunn said he is amazed at how quickly the project has moved along.
"This project has had a quick turnaround. It usually takes three or four years to finish a project of this size," Dunn said. "It's really to Cedarburg's credit."
Dunn expects to be done with his work in about two weeks, at which time construction will begin on the ticket booth.
The project includes updating the theater lobby. Poellet said planners are considering using the left-over glass on the inside.
"We may take the pieces that the glass was cut out of and incorporate that, bringing the outside art deco design and style into the inside so we can have a unity of design throughout."