Make us your home page
Instagram

Hidden war memorial uncovered during renovation of historic Clearwater theater

CLEARWATER

For nearly a century, the names of the heroes were hidden beneath a layer of white plaster.

Until this week, when workers renovating the historic Capitol Theatre in downtown Clearwater uncovered what was apparently a hand-painted memorial to local World War I soldiers on an interior wall.

"We've unearthed a time capsule," said Jeffrey Hartzog, director of operations at Ruth Eckerd Hall, which manages the Capitol Theatre for the city of Clearwater. "It was a surprise, but a good surprise. This is the kind of thing you hope to find."

Hartzog believes the memorial is about 12 feet tall and 30 feet wide, but only "J" through "Z" names have been exposed so far. "OF HONOR," a title fragment, is scrawled in black on the brick wall.

Now, architects and officials wonder: Should we tear it down? Keep the bricks? Create a new memorial?

The Capitol Theatre was built in 1924, Hartzog said, and shared a wall with the old Clearwater Evening Sun building. The local landmarks sat on Cleveland Street in the heart of downtown Clearwater — an ideal spot for a veterans memorial.

The $7 million expansion and renovation of the Capitol, which included demolition of the Sun building, started about four months ago. The comedian Gallagher performed the last show in the old theater on March 24.

Construction workers didn't notice the World War I tribute until Monday, on the inside of the western wall of the theater, smack in the middle of the planned new lobby.

"There's no question. We have to take the wall down," Hartzog said. "But we're looking for a way to preserve it, or at least a part of it. This is our history."

A close look at the memorial reveals pioneering Clearwater names, including "McMullen," which appears at least twice. Bill Wallace, a past president of the Clearwater Historical Society, found his uncle's name on the wall.

"He was born in 1894," Wallace said, "and was much older than my father."

Wallace, like Hartzog, hopes to see the wall preserved somewhere in Clearwater — perhaps, he said, beneath a sheet of glass in City Hall or near the Capitol Theatre.

He believes the names of as many as 100 soldiers might have been memorialized there before someone covered them up for construction of a theater gift shop and bathroom.

Danielle Paquette can be reached at dpaquette@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4224.

Hidden war memorial uncovered during renovation of historic Clearwater theater 04/10/13 [Last modified: Thursday, April 11, 2013 9:45am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. To test for climate disasters, like hurricanes: build stuff, then blow it apart

    Hurricanes

    WEST GLOCESTER, R.I. — In the backwoods of Rhode Island, a team of researchers spends whole days trying to destroy things: setting boxes on fire, shattering chunks of ice, hurling debris through the air at hurricane speed.

  2. Kathy Fountain, from anchor chair to therapist's chair

    Business

    A knowledgeable voice and familiar face beamed into Tampa Bay homes when Kathy Fountain delivered the 5 o'clock news and chatted with talk show guests on WTVT-Ch. 13. She created some news of her own as co-anchor of the first female team in the Tampa Bay area, "so radical at the time," she says.

  3. Ruskin artist to help poor kids build bikes reflecting their personalities

    Human Interest

    RUSKIN — Art meets transportation for a good cause in an after-school program where two dozen kids will create bicycles guaranteed to turn heads.

  4. Driven by demand, Planned Parenthood opens second clinic in Tampa

    Health

    The floor-to-ceiling glass windows are heavily tinted and the inside is hidden behind rows of curtains. Security cameras monitor every corner, and only patients with an appointment and valid identification can pass through the intentionally cramped entrance area. A receptionist sits behind a glass window. The more …

  5. Record numbers are signing up for Obamacare in Florida as enrollment period draws to a close

    Health

    With just four days left to enroll for health insurance on the federal exchange, advocates for the Affordable Care Act say Florida is headed for a record-breaking year.