OGDEN — The Egyptian Theatre Foundation is on a mission to complete a large-scale renovation project on one of Ogden's most famous landmarks — and they're up against the clock.
The foundation has begun a fundraising campaign to replace the exterior entrance marquee at Peery's Egyptian Theater, 2415 Washington Blvd. It's an undertaking the organization hopes to complete by May 10, 2019 — the 150th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike.
The driving of the last spike at Promontory Summit connected the rail lines of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific, completing the first transcontinental railroad across the United States. It was a monumental moment in history as the railroad revolutionized the American West by establishing a reliable transportation network that brought Western states and territories economic prosperity through the easy, cheap and quick transport of both goods and people.
Several events will occur in and around Ogden and Weber and Box Elder counties as the 150th anniversary is celebrated next year.
"There will be a ton of people coming through Ogden for the sesquicentennial," said foundation President Rob Werner. "So we want to have this finished before then."
Werner said the foundation will first focus on the theater's horizontal marquee, replacing it with a digital version.
"It's going to be digital, so it will have a lot more capability and will just be easier to use," he said. "But we're keeping the same look and lettering as the current one."
After the horizontal marquee is replaced, the foundation wants to install a 24-foot vertical blade sign, matching what was on the building in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Based on early bids, Werner says the projects combined will cost about $100,000 to complete.
"That's kind of a bit of money there and we're trying to raise that money and have everything finished by spring, so there's some urgency," Werner said.
Formed in 1985, the foundation provides oversight on the preservation, maintenance and improvement of the Weber County-owned theater. The group focuses on fundraising initiatives for theater-related projects, intended to increase community participation and invite new audiences to the venue.
Werner said other looming capital improvement projects include replacing the theater's seats and installing new canopies. He said the foundation is exploring local, state and federal grants, but will rely heavily on individual donations to complete the marquee projects.
Designed by the famous Ogden architectural firm of Hodgson & McClenahan (the company also designed buildings like Ogden High School, the Ogden Municipal Building and the U.S. Forest Service Building), Peery's first opened in 1924. According to the foundation's website, the theater's heyday ran from the arrival of "talking movies" in the late 1920s, and lasted through the 1950s.
As business declined on Washington Boulevard in the 1970s, so did action at the theater. Weber County officials ordered the theater closed in 1984 due to health code violations. A group of concerned Ogdenites formed to save the building shortly after it was closed. The group eventually became the foundation and spearheaded a multimillion dollar restoration of the theater that was completed in 1997.
"There are so many great memories that have been made at that theater," Werner said. "It's been a linchpin in Ogden for decades and we want to keep it that way."