The Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a true gem of 1930’s Art Deco architecture. Completed in 1938 to the design of renowned theater architect, John Eberson, the theater fell into disrepair in the 1980s. A concerted and cooperative effort to preserve this local landmark culminated in a successful partnership between Montgomery County and the American Film Institute (AFI) to restore and reopen the theater as a picture house and cultural center.
As part of this major restoration, we were contacted in 2002 to conserve two light sconces, two air register grates, and two-replicated metal fascia for the 1930’s art-deco restoration of the Silver Theater. Our senior conservators performed an initial condition assessment of the sconces and air register grates. In order to provide the highest level of treatment the elements were transported to us’s nearby studio.
The sconces and air register grates were disassembled to the degree possible to facilitate paint and corrosion removal. Existing coatings were removed from the sconces and air register grates using a solvent-based paint stripper and hot water. Areas of heavy corrosion were spot-blasted using a fine milled glass under pressure. The brass rings on the sconces were carefully cleaned using a gentle metal polish. The missing medallion on one of the sconces was replicated out of spun brass sheet metal similar in size and appearance to the original. A glass plate was replicated for one of the sconces to match the existing piece. All metal surfaces were prime-coated prior to the application of the finish lacquer-based paint system. The two-replicated metal fascia did not require any final finishes. The theater reopened in 2003 to great acclaim and success.