By Michele Morgan Bolton
Globe Correspondent / November 20, 2008
In a sort of modern-day barn-raising, a new marquee at the Dedham Community Theatre will pierce the darkness tomorrow night, the first of potentially many improvements to merchants' signs and facades in the historic downtown area.
What's special about this effort is that the sign was designed and commissioned with $60,000 in donated funds solicited by a community group, the Dedham Square Circle, which is focused on retaining the town's traditional character while boosting its economic base.
"A new marquee won't ensure a big volume of business" in a tough economy, said Amy Haelsen, executive director of the nonprofit Dedham Square Circle. "But it will give the square a needed facelift and send a message that it is safe to invest here."
The project began a year ago under the watchful eyes of Ned Roberts and his wife, Dedham Square Circle vice president Susie McIntosh. Taking the project from concept to working drawings to installation to tomorrow's debut, they devoted countless hours to manage a string of volunteers, engineers, architects, town officials, and others to produce and install the sign made by Peterson Products of Holbrook.
An electrician whose skills have come in handy, Selectman Carmen Dello Iacono wired the sign's light-emitting diodes.
The 1927 theater, owned by state Representative Paul McMurtry, was designed in the Classic Federal Revival style. Over the years, the original marquee was propped up and patched, but never restored.
As workers removed the old to prepare for the new, they saw that the sign, in its many incarnations, was three layers deep.
"It was like an archeological dig 12 feet off the ground," Roberts said.
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