Fox Theatre officially retires the hardest working air conditioner in show biz

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For those of us who have suffered this summer with temperamental air conditioners that always seem to knock off work in the middle of a heat wave, take heart.
 
The original air chilling contraptions were a lot more dependable.
 
For example, this week The Fox Theatre officially retires one of its hardest working amenities: the Midtown landmark’s original 1929 air conditioning unit after 80 years of service.
 
The mountain of machinery housed in the theater’s basement was a marvel of engineering for its time.
 
“The Fox had air conditioning before the White House did,” explains Fox spokeswoman Kristen Delaney. “But the system was not very green. It takes a lot of water and electricity and we wanted to update that.”
 
The 1929 system was an ammonia based system consisting of an air wash, wheel, motor and chiller. In 1946, a centrifugal chiller was added to convert the system from ammonia to water.
 
Still, Delaney says the system was always extremely efficient.
 
“We could chill down the entire theater in about 10 minutes,” she explains. “That was very handy when you’ve got 5,000 guests in for a rock concert.”
 
On Monday with the help of a crane, the Fox’s new air conditioner was delivered. But the original series of units will stay on as a back up if modern technology ever fails.
 
The upside for Fox theatregoers? Better air conditioning circulation in the previously persnickety Egyptian Ballroom region of the complex.
 
At a retirement ceremony last week, Fox staffers cut a cake in the shape of the system’s main chilling components nicknamed Big Red, Bertha and Misty and signed a matted photograph of the retiree.
 
In a eulogy, Fox assistant general manager Adina Alford Erwin praised Big Red, Bertha and Misty telling staffers: “They have plowed through heat waves, performers we’d rather not see again, performers we can’t wait to welcome back, the restoration of Mighty Mo, bankruptcy and auctioning on the court house steps. They weathered the shuttering thoughts of being torn down and made into scrap, a fire and even a flood to never falter in their dedication to service and to their patrons. They set the standard.”

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