Last push to ‘Raise the Roof’

Published 12:43 pm Friday, March 6, 2020

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Arts of the Pamlico is making its last fundraising push to shore up the Turnage Theatre and preserve it for future generations of artists, musicians, actors and patrons of the arts.

After literally shoring up the walls to prevent more deterioration in the original vaudeville theater upstairs and slow the rain leaks, the work to rebuild the Turnage roof will officially start in May.

In the meantime, AOP is finding ways to fill in the $300,000 gap for the $1.3-million project.

“It’s a giant job,” said Debra Torrence, Arts of the Pamlico’s executive director. “We couldn’t sister any existing beams. We cannot salvage any of the tresses. Originally, we thought it would be two, but now it’s all six, that’s why the estimated cost went up.”

Torrence said AOP has raised more than $1 million, including more than $700,000 through a USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Program grant.

“The majority of funding has come from grants with critical support from the City of Washington and important private donations,” Torrence wrote in an email.

In addition to seeking pledges and donations, AOP is hosting a raffle: $100 will buy the chance to name the whirligig sculpture in the window of the West Main Street theater, and staff is considering hosting a benefit concert with door sales to be donated to the cause, Torrence said.

“We’re doing the final ask, asking everyone to send anything they can — curiously enough, every penny counts,” Torrence said.

At AOP, the pennies are being counted — a result of the immediate need to fix the roof before more damage is caused is that other programs aren’t being funded to the degree AOP would like.

“The roof is just taking every inch of what we’ve got,” Torrence said. “But we’re hopeful.”

It will be worth it, however, as the Turnage’s roof will be taken apart in sections and pieced back together with steel, adding stability to the entire structure.

“The whole structure up top, all the tresses, will be steel, which will strengthen the building, because it’s all stacked brick. So steel will not only extend the longevity of the roof but the entire building,” Torrence said.

Of the 12 companies contacted for the potential job, only five responded, as the work is very specialized.

“The companies had to be somebody that has the ability to be able to handle unknowns from expertise and financially, and have a very strong understanding of historical buildings,” Torrence said.

TA Loving Company, which has staff in Beaufort County, was awarded the contract and oversight of the project will continue to be provided by Curtis McLawhorn Engineering, also in Beaufort County.

“We’re trying to stay as local as possible, to keep the money in Beaufort County,” Torrence said.

Donations are accepted by check, cash, credit card or pledge. Online donations may be made through Paypal or by credit card. AOP will provide additional information and documentation of a gift as needed. For more information, visit or call 252-946-2504.