Maybe the comparison isn’t fair, but while Rochester struggles to get the renovation of the historic Chateau Theatre underway, Red Wing is completing a renovation of its even more historic T.B. Sheldon Theatre.
Granted, Red Wing isn’t starting from scratch with the Sheldon. The theater, which was a gift to the community from grain baron T.B. Sheldon, opened in 1904. It served as a live performance venue and movie house, and was beginning to fall out of fashion by the 1980s. That’s when a major remodeling project, completed in 1988, turned the Sheldon into one of the region’s premier stages.
Since then, the Sheldon has presented everything from rock music to scary silent movies, from comedy to ballet, from community productions to major touring artists.
But 30 years after that major renovation, it was time once again for the Sheldon to get spruced up. So, last May, after the completion of a busy season of events, the Sheldon closed its doors. Since then, the theater has undergone a $2 million renovation project. Funding came from state bonding as part of Red Wing’s River Town Renaissance Project, from the City of Red Wing’s capital improvement budget, and from individual donations.
There were electrical upgrades, new ADA-compliant restrooms, plaster repair, painting of historic details, creation of new studio space and upgrades to the green room.
Now that the work is essentially done, Red Wing once again has its “jewel box” back. A grand re-opening celebration will be held, starting at 4:45 p.m. Sept. 29, with a procession along Third Street, speakers, a ribbon cutting, and a chance to take a look inside the Sheldon. Don Shelby, former WCCO news anchor, will be the master of ceremonies.
Following that, at 7:30 p.m., the Sheldon will present a concert by the Revolution, Prince’s former backing band.
In the following weeks, the Sheldon will host folk singer Shawn Colvin, MPR’s Caravan du Nord music festival, comic Louie Anderson, a silent film horror fest, “An Evening with Groucho,” and the Sheldon Theatre Brass Band, among other events. Such a busy schedule, of course, wouldn’t continue year after year without the support of local patrons.
The Sheldon has long been one of the cornerstones of Red Wing’s historic downtown area, along with the St. James Hotel and the restaurants and shops located in refurbished old storefronts. Now it’s ready to continue in that role for at least a few more decades.
By renovating and maintaining the Sheldon, Red Wing has set a standard for the region — including Rochester.