The historic city of Plymouth currently offers one of the most vibrant downtown experiences in the state of Michigan. The Penn Theatre is widely recognized as the heart of downtown Plymouth and a crown jewel of the community. The theater originally opened in 1941 and has stood the test of time offering a unique cinematic experience to moviegoers for decades! However, in 2003 the theatre closed its doors, its fate uncertain. In 2005 a group of concerned Plymouth residents formed a non-profit called the Friends of the Penn. They, along with a group of generous local businessman were able to save the theatre and have worked tirelessly to restore it to its original grandeur.
Ellen Elliott, executive director of the Penn, contacted Re-Brick Restoration to assess the state of the original masonry chimney which was in need of major repairs. We were excited to be invited to restore a beautiful and historic landmark structure.
In most situations, we are able to find either the original brick reclaimed and stocked by one of our suppliers. The original brick for the Penn Theatre was completely unavailable. We could also not find a suitable modern day replacement that would match the original brick.
Maintaining the historic integrity of this building was a must. After collaborating with Mrs. Elliott on a plan of action, it was decided that the best plan would be to replace the entire chimney from the roof line up with a reclaimed brick, a red common Clippert brick. Clippert Brick was a Detroit brick company that opened its doors in 1880 and served the local area, and beyond, until 1989. This brick was period-correct and used in many historic buildings in Plymouth.
Getting materials and equipment onto and off the roof without disturbing two working businesses below was the next challenge. Heavy equipment and large scaffold towers on the ground would be too disruptive. We opted to hoist everything up via ladders and pulleys. This option was very labor-intensive, but it was the best way to get everything done quietly without disturbing the theater or the connected businesses. Once we had the debris down and the new material up, it was time to do what we do best. With the original chimney deconstructed, we replaced the broken and failing 18-inch flue tiles, rebuilt the inner 4-inch cinder block structure, and installed the new outer Clippert brick structure. in keeping with the original building style, a 4-inch poured concrete cap was installed.
In the end not only were we left with a happy client, but we were also able to create what we hope will be a long lasting partnership and friendship with a group of really great people. What a privilege. Thank you Friends of the Penn!