Philadelphia Academy of Music's bronze chandelier to be restored

A 5,000-pound (2,268-kilogram) bronze chandelier hanging from the ceiling of the Philadelphia Academy of Music is to be restored to its original splendor.

For 150 years, the chandelier served as the gilded centerpiece of the 2,900-seat auditorium. But its original splendor has been tainted over the past century as it deteriorated and became modernized.

The 25-foot 25 (7.6-meter) tall chandelier was the largest in Philadelphia when it was built by Cornelius and Baker, who created many of the light fixtures found in state capital buildings across the country. Over the years, it lost some of its luster as designers added black scoop lights, steel cups, hanging crystals and a large hanging metal ball.

As many as 40 percent of the chandelier's 8,000 crystals were cracked, broken or replaced (sometimes with fakes), according to senior project director John Trosino. The French firm handling the renovation, Mathieu Lustrerie, plans to replace those crystals and remove the anachronistic additions.

Trosino spent many hours on the floor of the Academy of Music, staring at the ceiling and thinking, "Move that. Take that bit off." He said the Academy had been hoping to fix it up for more than a decade. Now they have the funding and know more than ever about its original appearance.

"The chandelier will once again become the breathtaking centerpiece of the auditorium," said Joanna McNeil Lewis, the Academy's president. "It was this incredibly fantastic collection of fairy lights. What we'd like to do is bring it back to that."

The project will cost about $1.2 million (900,000 EUR), including packing and shipping the fixture to workshops in southern France. It will be disassembled over the next week.

When it returns in 2008, its uplights and downlights will be more subtle than the large black studio lights currently on its top tiers. The chandelier will hang a full 12 to 15 feet (3 1/2 to 4 1/2 meters) lower than its former position, and will be raised only for performances.

As the chandelier slowly came down on Monday, photographers scrambled for a good angle while the project's leaders looked onward. "This is it. Do you want to say goodbye?" McNeil Lewis asked Trosino.

"It's not every day you get to see a light fixture that's as big as a house," Trosino said.