Making a Difference

Leslie Fry

After Vermont's Springfield Theater suffered a devastating fire in 2008, workers assessing the damage made a surprising discovery: Under a brick wall on the 1867 building's facade they found vestiges of a stunning Art Deco relief covered up more than a half-century ago. Leslie Fry, a sculptor who splits her time between Vermont and Florida, was hired to re-create the relief. She relied on two grainy 1950s photographs that showed the lost details, which included a smiling mask of comedy. "In my own work, I'm working mostly from my imagination," Fry says. But with this project she needed to adhere to the style of the historic sculpture: "There was something really thrilling about having these tight limitations on what I did."

Fry worked with Alan Barr, a stoneworker, to make a plaster mold of the damaged relief that they used to re-create the sculpture in concrete. Fry also collaborated with an architectural historian to design a pair of period-appropriate owls to fill in details obscured in the historic photographs. The new relief now adorns the renovated building, which houses three movie screens and nine second-floor apartments. The project, a joint venture between Housing Vermont and Springfield Housing Unlimited, was completed in June. Fry says she found her first foray into historic preservation immensely rewarding. "I'd like to do work like this again," she says.

For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.