Hudson Opera House completes major renovations and adopts new name for grand re-opening
Completed ahead of schedule, the historic theater re-opens to the public as Henry Hudson Hall
Hudson, NY – March 13, 2017: The site of New York State’s oldest surviving theater, the Hudson Opera House has completed the final phase of a major restoration project begun in April of 2016. The re-opening of the historic theater is accompanied by a name change: the Hudson Opera House will be renamed Henry Hudson Hall.In honoring the city’s historic namesake, Henry Hudson, the new name marks a significant evolution for the iconic venue, which, from its founding in 1855 until the building was abandoned in 1962, has witnessed some of the most exciting cultural, social and political events of the day. Since 1992, when the building was rescued from destruction, it has played a pivotal role in the cultural and economic advancement of the region.“This is a defining moment in the life of this treasured building and this organization. The energy and momentum brought on by the restoration project, and the exciting new possibilities it presents in terms of programming demanded we address misperceptions about the building and, most especially, our name,” says Gary Schiro, Executive Director of Henry Hudson Hall. “In working with the Opera House Board of Directions, executive staff, and Megan Kent, founder of Megan Kent Branding Group, we learned through discussions with constituents and key community stakeholders just how limiting our misplaced identity as an ‘opera house’ has been in our efforts to engage new and diverse audiences. The two most prominent names in the history of the building – City Hall and the Hudson Opera House – are both equally misleading,” says Schiro. “We feel the name ‘Henry Hudson Hall’ honors the richness of the building’s past while creating a bridge to a bold new future – one that advances the organization’s role as a leader in the civic and cultural life of the region.”Megan Kent, of MKBG says “By awakening a sense of adventure, exploration and excitement, Henry Hudson Hall will be a place for everyone to discover something new. In naming Henry Hudson Hall after this city’s historic namesake— a man whose entire being was possessed by a spirit of discovery— we appropriately honor the history and future of this building.”
THE HISTORY OF HUDSON’S “OPERA HOUSE”: THE EVOLVING IDENTITY OF A TREASURED LANDMARK
Designed by architect Peter Avery, the building was constructed in 1855 as Hudson’s City Hall. In addition to city offices, the Greek Revival structure housed a bank, the police station, post office, and library, as well as a magnificent performance hall on the second floor. During the late 1800s, as it became popular for towns and cities to have ‘opera houses’, the upstairs performance hall was renovated to include a proscenium stage and dressing rooms.In 1881, City Hall then became known as the Hudson Opera House, although only a few operas were ever performed there. Around 1900 the building was often referred to as the Elks Theatre, when the management of the upstairs theater was overseen by the Hudson Elks Lodge. By the 1920s the building had again become known as City Hall. In the 1960s, when City Hall moved to 520 Warren Street, the building was briefly known as the Moose Lodge before closing in 1962. For three decades, the building sat vacant and had fallen into disrepair. In 1992, a group of citizens formed a non-profit and purchased the building to preserve its legacy and history and give it new life as an exhibition and performing arts center.