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Pulaski theater manager discovers hidden treasure, lost for nearly 100 years

(Fox 17 News)

Tammy Pierchoski has three children who always gravitated more to the arts than athletics.

She's run her own theater company for years, and she currently runs STAAR Theatre in Pulaski.

When her operation began to outgrow their space in Lynnville, she and her husband set out looking for a new place to perform and practice. After settling on a space, Pierchoski was approached by a man, and the ensuing conversation altered her life forever.

The man offered to have the theater company move into the foreclosed clothing store that he had recently purchased on the Pulaski town square. The former sales floor worked great with plenty of room for a stage, tech booth and concession stand.

That was it until Pierchoski walked outside.

Starting at a mansard roof that rose high above the other buildings on the square, Pierchoski wondered what was upstairs. With a pair of bolt cutters, the duo entered the second floor of the clothing store to discover two long wooden doors, clamped shut but big enough to ensure a grand surprise stood on the other side.

For the first time in nearly a century, Pierchoski uncovered Pulaski's Antoinette Hall, an opera and theater house that opened in 1868 to lift the town's spirits after the Civil War. Movie theaters ended its glory years, and the doors closed for good in 1935.

"We totally believe this was divine intervention," Pierchoski said. "There's no way we could have landed here if God didn't have a plan for it. It was just astounding. I sat down on the floor and started crying."

The closed doors preserved years of history. The plaster roof was starting to crumble, but evidence of the theater's originality were littered everywhere. On a backstage wall, actors had scribbled their names next to years 1923 or 1925.

Mayor Pat Ford could not believe what he was seeing when he first entered the hall.

"You walk in and you get this feeling," Ford said. "You start hearing this story, and it just blows you away."

Pierchoski and her husband are now focusing their efforts on running their theater company downstairs as they fundraise and prepare for a preservation project that must start with reinforcing the end walls held up by steel cables.

The Pulaski City Council is one vote away from granting $100,000 for the preservation of the theater.

The last play to grace the stage was Sam Davis, The Immortal Scout. Tickets were 75 cents and luxurious balcony seats were $5, a small fortune after the Civil War.

The house was built with Second Empire Victorian architecture, and it's opening on Christmas Eve in 1868 intended to lift the spirits of a generation in the doldrums after a Civil War defeat.

"The children are like 'when can I perform on that stage,' so that has to happen," Pierchoski said.

With her dedication to see its revival, it will.

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