PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Benedum Center in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District hosts concerts, plays, musicals and more. One classic feature is the dozens of chandeliers and other lighting fixtures throughout the building.
Once a year, the staff takes on the very tedious task of cleaning and repairing the chandeliers. One in particular takes a lot of time.
The theater’s main chandelier hangs from the auditorium ceiling. It weighs 4,700 pounds and is decorated with 500,000 crystals.
“Until I first saw it down, you don’t understand how massive it is,” says Joanna Obuzor, the Operations Manager at the Benedum Center. “It’s 20 feet tall and 12 feet wide. You think about your usual living room – it’s bigger than a living room.”
Cleaning a chandelier that large is no easy task.
“It’s not a one-day process. It actually takes several [days],” says Obuzor. “To get everything clean, it’s going to be a full week. We have a full-time staff of seven people, and all of them come in early in the morning and are cleaning all day long.”
Because of its size, the main chandelier is raised and lowered using a chain motor.
“All the other chandeliers are raised and lowered by hand,” says Obuzor. “So that involves people going up to the grid and using ropes and actually lowering each chandelier so it’s low enough that you can clean it either on a ladder or while standing on the ground.”
The Benedum’s main chandelier was installed in 1928. It was restored decades later as part of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s first project. The group restored what was once known as the Stanley Theater, and turned it into the Benedum Center we know today. The restoration was dedicated to Henry J. Heinz II.
Obuzor says today’s theater is very close to the original version.
Sept. 25 marks the 30th anniversary of the Benedum Center’s grand reopening. For 89 years, the theater has been an important part of Pittsburgh’s culture. Officials hope that with routine maintenance, like cleaning the chandeliers, keeps the theater around for at least eight more decades.
“Because without days like this, and weeks like this where we put the maintenance in, the Benedum wouldn’t be the beautiful building that you see today,” says Obuzor.