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Palace theater in hilo hawaii under construction

Hilo Palace Theater Under Construction: A 95 Year-Old Grande Dame Gets a Facelift

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The Historic Hilo Palace Theater in Hilo, Hawaii is being restored to her full glory.

The Palace team is making the most of this period of closure, currently working through a full restoration of the theater’s front façade. The earthquake of 2018 caused substantial damage to the stucco and several large pieces of wood trim fell off the building to the sidewalk below. The project is not merely an aesthetic one, but a matter of public safety.

The ambitious project was prompted by a loyal patron who expressed that the dilapidated façade was a serious detriment to the Palace. This anonymous patron offered a generous gift of $25,000 toward the restoration, but only if another $50,000 could be raised to complete the project.

“Thus began our campaign to raise the $50,000,” said Wendy Peskin, President of the Hilo Palace Theater Board. “We were awarded a Historic Preservation grant of $79,000, which assured the initial $25,000 gift, and made the project attainable. Mason Architects in Honolulu created the historically correct design and construction documents for our 1925 ‘Beaux Arts’ beauty, which enabled us to gather bids which gave us a sense of the actual costs. We continued to raise money for this project and ultimately reached our goal with generous donations from the community and an additional foundation grant. As we were forced to close our doors during the current Covid-19 pandemic, we figured it was a perfect time to accomplish this complicated project,” said Peskin.

“The restoration is not a small project,” said Phillips Payson, Executive Director of the Palace Theater. “Repairs were made to areas with major damage. A complete fresh top coat of stucco has been applied to the entirety of the façade, including where the street façade design wraps around the mauka and makai sides of the building, bringing new life to the look of the theater. Two stories of scaffolding were erected to complete the task, along with repairing and repainting the historical wood trim elements. After years of absence, the decorative plaster urns have been reattached to their perch above the second-story windows. People walking by the theater stop and marvel at the theater’s fresh look, but there is still much work to be done.”

Up next on the docket is the painting of ground-level poster cases and doorways, repairs to the awning marquee overhanging the sidewalk, refurbishing of the metalwork, and last but certainly not least is the full restoration of the façade’s neon elements to light up the warm Hilo nights.

What’s happening on the long-awaited air conditioning? With the completion of our long-in- the-works maintenance to the building’s sprinkler system, our team is currently awaiting final inspection from the Hawaii County Fire Department. With a signed off inspection and an issued building permit, the Palace will begin, at last, Phase I of the AC installation.

“The Palace would not be where we are today without the generous donations from our many faithful patrons and donors. While we are closed to the public during this turbulent time, we have pivoted our operations to a “Virtual Venue.” Follow along on Facebook and subscribe to the Hilo Palace Theater on YouTube to stay up to date on our ongoing digital concert series LIVE FROM THE EMPTY PALACE, and enjoy a film selection from our Virtual Cinema Portal at hilopalace.com. 50% of each film rental goes directly to the Hilo Palace. Stay informed, stay healthy, and see you back at the Palace when it’s safe out there!” concluded Payson.

We would like to thank :

Perez Wall Solutions for managing the Stucco application and construction of the scaffolding.

Hennen Construction for managing the restoration of woodwork elements.

Anvil INC for restoring the metalwork.

INA Custom Signs for revitalizing the neon signage.



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