Renovation of Oldest Surviving Theater in New York Funded Through State, Federal and Private Investments
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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the grand reopening of Hudson Hall at the historic Hudson Opera House in Columbia County, the oldest surviving theater in the state. The Hudson Opera House, built in 1855, has welcomed great performers, writers and historical figures over the years, including Susan B. Anthony and Theodore Roosevelt.
"The historic Hudson Opera House is a true jewel of this region, representing an important and storied piece of New York’s vibrant history," Governor Cuomo said. "This project has restored and revitalized New York’s oldest theater, preserving its architectural features while creating a thriving cultural center for the City of Hudson and for visitors from near and far to enjoy for years to come."
The $8.5 million project was funded through a $1.3 million Capital Region Economic Development Council Capital Grant, a $1 million Restore NY Grant; a matching EPF grant leveraging $800,000 in grants from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; nearly $100,000 from the New York State Council for the Arts; and $3 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Facilities Loan Program. The remaining funding was supported through investments from members of the Hudson Opera House Board of Directors and private sponsors.
Interior renovations included restoring the theater to a professional-grade working venue suitable for a diverse range of programming and rentals. Work included the rehabilitation of the stage, performance hall and mezzanine, which now features a new lighting and sound booth. Support spaces, including dressing rooms, a Reception Room and accessible restrooms, were also restored. Part of the project included preservation of the facility’s historic character, including the proscenium arch and raked wooden floor stage, which were late 19th century additions. The historic fabric was also retained, with new elements sensitively incorporated to retain the overall historic character of the spaces.
Additionally, the opera house was modernized to ensure accessibility, safety and security for all staff, performers and patrons. A new elevator tower in the southeast corner of the building makes the performance hall fully accessible to all individuals for the first time in the building's more than 160-year history. The facility underwent lead and asbestos abatement services, and new electrical, fire protection and HVAC systems were installed. Exterior renovations included the restoration of the facility’s masonry, windows and doors. A new roof was installed and the building’s cornice was restored.
Hudson Hall Executive Director Gary Schiro said, "We are tremendously grateful for the leadership support from New York State and the generous support of the many New Yorkers who made this historic moment possible. After 55 years, we are returning to the public a venue that has hosted the legendary artistic and political figures of the past, and will now see that legacy extend well into the future."
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "The restoration of the Hudson Opera House has transformed a once-vacant building into a modern venue that will host speakers and performers while generating local economic activity for years to come. New York State has and will continue to support projects that strengthen our regions by leveraging private investment with strategic public resources."
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey said, "Revitalizing these landmark buildings across New York State revitalize and stimulate our communities. The Hudson Opera House reminds us of the energetic stories of our nation’s history and excites us for the new tales they tell today."
Capital Region Economic Development Council co-chairs James Barba and James R. Stellar, said, "The funding for Hudson Hall at the Hudson Opera House brings to life both an historic gem and enhances our region’s unique historic and artistic character. The Capital Regional Economic Development Council is proud to have supported this project, and we look forward to seeing how it contributes to our region’s economy and quality of life."
New York State Council on the Arts Executive Director Mara Manus said, "Hudson Hall is a beacon of culture in the region. It is an outstanding model of historic preservation, maintaining its character while thriving as a contemporary destination for artists and audiences. Hudson Hall demonstrates the highest standards of artistic achievement and community engagement with appearances by internationally renowned performing artists, music and dance for all ages, as well as TEDxHudson talks. We congratulate the staff and board on its grand reopening."
New York State Senator Kathy Marchione said, "Today's announcement of the grand reopening of Hudson Hall at the historic Hudson Opera House in Columbia County is wonderful, welcome news for the entire community. Governor Cuomo's continued leadership and commitment to making these strategic investments is helping improve and enrich our special quality of life. The arts inspire, inform and entertain, and today's great news from the Governor is further evidence that New York remains a national leader in supporting the arts and cultural entertainment."
New York State Assemblywoman Didi Barrett said, "The Hudson Opera House is truly a Hudson Valley gem as well as a critical economic driver. It's rebirth as Hudson Hall signifies the end of a decades-long process to renovate and restore this landmark, New York's oldest surviving theater. Our office has been a partner with the state and federal government in supporting this transformation and we happily join with the Hudson community in thanks and celebration on this momentous occasion."
City of Hudson Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton said, "The Hudson Opera House has been a longstanding center of cultural and educational programming and has served as a cornerstone of the economic revitalization of the City of Hudson. Its programs offer a wide range of experiences for people of all ages in an iconic building in the heart of downtown Hudson. The newly redone performance hall will allow the City to serve as host of top-notch programming and further punctuate Hudson’s commitment to the arts. We are proud of the thoughtful detail with which every aspect of the renovation was done. A perfect intersection of modern day function with historic sensibility will make the Opera House’s valued programming accessible to all."
Local companies contracted to complete the renovations include Preservation Architecture; Consigli Construction, NY; Production & Performance Facility Consulting; Proper & O'Leary Engineering, PC; and Landmark Consulting.
About Hudson Hall
Built in 1855 as the City Hall for Hudson, New York, the building contains New York State’s oldest surviving theater. From its founding until 1962, when the building was abandoned, the theater provided a space for some of the most exciting cultural, social and political events of the day. The great Hudson River School painters showed their paintings, Bret Harte read his poems, Ralph Waldo Emerson gave a talk titled ‘Social Aims,’ and Susan B. Anthony visited twice, lecturing to abolish slavery and rallying the cry for women’s suffrage. And in 1914, Teddy Roosevelt regaled a crowd with his adventures in Africa.
Today, Hudson Hall continues its historic legacy, promoting the arts and playing a pivotal role in the cultural and economic advancement of the region. It serves more than 50,000 individuals and families annually through performances, exhibits, talks, and youth and senior programs, the majority of which celebrate local history, talent and region, all within our current facility. Truly, Hudson Hall is an example of a historical landmark that celebrates the timeless spirit of our place while serving as a vital resource for the cultural and economic quality of life in our region. Visit www.hudsonhall.org to learn more.