Advertisement
  1. Business

Hidden war memorial uncovered during renovation of historic Clearwater theater

Hartzog points out some of the names painted on what was once an exterior wall of the old Clearwater Sun building.
Published Apr. 11, 2013

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.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Tech Data's CEO Rich Hume (left) shares a moment with former CEO Bob Dutkowsky during a send off celebration for Dutkowsky earlier this year. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
    A private equity firm has agreed to buy Tech Data.
  2. Joseph Erickson, 53, looks out the window at the gulf-[front condo he thought he won at a foreclosure auction last year.t JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |  Times
    "There have been serious allegations,'' Judge Keith Meyer said.
  3. Sam's Club fulfillment center manager Nick Barbieri explains to a shopper how the new Scan & Go shop works at 5135 S Dale Mabry Highway. SARA DINATALE  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Shoppers in Tampa Bay can now skip the line and cash out alcohol on their own phones.
  4. Which cars hold their value best in Tampa Bay? Pictured is traffic in Tampa Bay in 2017. [Times file photo] ELLIOTT, LOREN  |  Elliott, Loren
    For the top spots, think big and rugged.
  5. A rendering of the planned Pinstripes bowling, bocce and bistro space that is planned to open at International Plaza alongside a Cinemex in spring 2021. Pinstripes
    In addition to upscale bowling and movies, there will also be bocce ball and a bistro.
  6. Tech Data's headquarters in Largo. TD AGENCY  |  Courtesy of Tech Data
    The company is being sold to a private equity firm.
  7. St. Petersburg's new 26-acre Pier District, with components that will include a coastal thicket walking path, marketplace, playground and pavilion, is nearing completion. Shown is the tilted lawn in front of the Pier head building that is being created  with Geofoam, soil and grass. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    St. Petersburg hopes to sell naming rights in the Pier District — available for annual payments of $50,000 to $1 million for 10-year terms — to help offset taxpayer subsidies.
  8. Tech Data chief executive officer Rich Hume talks to company employees about the pending acquisition of Tech Data for $5.4 billion at a global town hall meeting on Wednesday morning. David Kiester | Tech Data
    Apollo Global Management has offered $130 per share of Tech Data stock. If shareholders approve, the home-grown company will remain based in Pinellas County.
  9. Isabella Yosuico of Safety Harbor with some of the Mighty Tykes wrist and ankle bands she invted to help her son Isaac, who has Down Syndrome, and other children with weak muscles. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A product to help special needs kids leads to big loans, a lawsuit and a bungled bankruptcy
  10. The Pinellas County Commission moved closer Tuesday to granting a total of $20.6 million to three museums: the Salvidor Dali Museum (top), the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center (bottom left), and the St. Petersburg Museum of History. Photos courtesy of Pinellas County
    The Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg Museum of History and Tampa Bay Watch are on track to receive bed tax dollars for expansions.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement