Robin Adair, '00, Restores Historic Albion Theatre Windows
By Jake Weber
Alumnus Robin Adair, '00, is enjoying the summer inside Albion's Bohm theatre – even with the windows wide open to the heat. A preservation carpenter with specific expertise in window restoration, Adair is working with Friends of the Bohm Theatre to make it the aesthetic centerpiece of Albion's historic district.
Opened on Christmas Day 1929, the Bohm went through a number of remodeling projects and changes in ownership before its closure in 2008. A badly damaged roof, along with the original air-conditioning system – which continued to divert rainwater into basement cisterns – wreaked havoc on the building's interior and the building's chances of finding a new owner. Friends of the Bohm was formed with the goal of re-opening the movie house and theatre while retaining as much of its original architecture as possible.
Enter Adair, who left Albion with the intent of pursuing graduate study in historic preservation, until he read a journal article about preservation carpentry. "I've always liked working with my hands," he said. Adair completed a two-year program in Boston and eventually set up shop in Michigan. "People who live in Ann Arbor historic districts aren't allowed to get replacement windows if their old windows can be repaired," Adair explains. "I have more work than I can handle."
For the Bohm project, Adair is focusing on repair of 13 double windows that overlook Superior Street from the theatre's second and third stories (a co-contractor will do most of the window finish work). Replacing the window mechanism, adding weatherstripping and repairing the woodwork, he says, allow the windows to be energy efficient and to open with the push of a finger. "Wood windows are made so you can take the whole thing apart," he asserts. "Most people don't know that wooden windows can be repaired. They can work as well as replacement windows and they'll definitely last a lot longer."
To illustrate his point, Adair picks up one of the Bohm's windows, a sturdy-looking frame with one crumbled corner. "These windows were probably made from old-growth lumber, very rot-resistant," he says. "These were the original windows and probably never had storm windows over them. No one's ever done any work to them and they're really not too bad."
"I'll reglaze them and add weatherstripping to the frame – you won't be able to see it from the outside but they'll be much more energy efficient," he said. "These windows are 80 years old but they'll last another 100 years. Restoration costs more than replacement but in the long run, it's much cheaper."
Beyond the windows, Adair is happy to be part of the Bohm restoration. "When I was at Albion, I was on Union Board," he said. "Every few weeks, we hosted movie nights at the Bohm. I have good memories of being here as a student, and it's good to be back."
Adair spends about 80% of the job away from the Bohm, doing the window repairs at his Ann Arbor shop. Nonetheless, "when I'm at the Bohm, I get people asking when it's going to open again and they're happy to hear about it. It's great to see things coming back in Albion."