How do you take a 2.5 ton chandelier with 20,000 pieces of ornate glass; cut the cable that has held it in place for 87 years; and replace it with an automated lifting and lowering system for cleaning and maintenance?
As Jeff Gambrill will tell you: “you need to handle it very gently, using only expert craftsmen, and, just in case, have lots of liability insurance.”
Jeff should know. His company, Rochester, NY-based Aloi Materials Handling, Inc. (www.aloi.com), where he is the company’s president, recently handled that project as part of the renovation of Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre in Rochester.
For two weeks, Aloi crews weathered steamy temperatures in a dimly lit attic high above the floor at Kodak Hall, where they replaced an old hand crank system that was used to lower and raise the chandelier.
“We install hoists and lifting equipment all the time, but never have we had such a specialized job. We were NOT going to fail on this job; imagine the publicity we would have gotten then!” he said. “Nothing was left to chance.”
The chandelier, installed when the theatre was opened in 1922, contains 750 lights and over 20,000 pieces of glass and crystal from Italy and Czechoslovakia.
Weighing two and a half tons and measuring 15 feet in diameter and 35 feet in depth, it hangs from a gilded sunburst in the center of the coffered domed ceiling of the theatre.
While the chandelier still hung from the ceiling, Aloi crews installed a Columbus-McKinnon (www.cmworks.com ) electric hoist system made in Buffalo, NY.
Once installed and connected to the same hook used by the original hand crank, the old cable was cut, transferring the weight of the chandelier to the new cable and hoist.
“The new hoist system worked just as we knew it would,” Gambrill said. “The chandelier didn’t budge, not even a tiny nudge.”
Shortly thereafter, the chandelier was lowered into scaffolding for the first time using the new electric hoist, so workers could vacuum all the dust off and begin replacing its 750 bulbs.
The chandelier is now comfortably situated high above the theatre seats, and its lights were dazzling when Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre reopened recently.
“We couldn’t have been more honored to play a behind the scenes role in the concert hall’s renovation,” Gambrill said.