Hattiesburg receives grant to restore Saenger Theater ceiling

Hattiesburg Saenger Theater
Hattiesburg Saenger Theater(WDAM)
Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 12:02 PM CST
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Hattiesburg’s historic Saenger Theater is about to start a renovation on its nearly century-old ceiling.

The City of Hattiesburg will receive $250,000 in Community Heritage Preservation Grant money from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to restore the ceiling of the downtown landmark.

“Up in the ceiling we discovered what we think are original components that were missed in the last renovation more than 20 years ago,” said Rick Taylor, Executive Director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission. “It very well could be an original part of the ceiling when the Saenger was built in 1929, and now that plaster is loose.”

The Saenger underwent a $3.75 million renovation in 2000. The upcoming work will not only focus on the replacing the old plaster but restore an ornamental band that once entirely bordered the theater’s ceiling.

The areas that need repair are tricky to access, with the ceiling starting in the balcony and then soaring well above the main floor.

“We might hire Michelangelo to do the job,” Taylor said of the long-ago Italian master who painted the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel.

The Saenger is owned by the City of Hattiesburg, which contracts with convention commission to manage the property.

The city applied for the MDAH grant, which is expected to cover close to a third of the cost of a project with an initial estimate of around $750,000.

The theater is one of several entities in Hattiesburg managed by the commission, including the Hattiesburg Zoo, the Lake Terrace Convention Center and African-American Military History Museum.

The Saenger project was one of 18 approved by the MDAH’s board of trustees and announced Friday.

The projects will be funded from a pool of more than $3 million awarded for preservation and renovation of historic structures.

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