Sunday, September 4, 2011

History of the Hudson Opera House

The Hudson Opera House has a rich history dating back to 1855. Reopened in 1992, The Opera House presents performances, exhibitions, workshops, readings and lectures. The 18th Annual Gala to benefit the ongoing restoration, "In Black and White", will be held on Saturday, September 24th, 2011 at the Basilica Hudson. For information contact the Opera House directly.

"The building was built in 1855 as the first City Hall for Hudson. In early years, the first floor of the building was home to the Franklin Library, and the First National Bank of Hudson. Frederic Church and Sanford Gifford showed their paintings here, Bret Harte read his poems, and Henry Ward Beecher gave a rousing abolitionist lecture. Susan B. Anthony visited at least twice, the first time lecturing about abolishing slavery, and the second time to rally support for women's suffrage. Around 1880, at the height of the Gilded Age, and shortly after Paris built it's new Opera House, the Palais Garnier, many town halls and city halls in America adopted the 'Opera House' name which is how this building came to be known as the Hudson Opera House. The first floor of this building held various civic offices (Post Office, Police Station, Common Council, etc.) and the performance hall upstairs, New York State's oldest surviving theatre was used for everything from traveling lecture presentations and musical and theatrical events to local functions like dances, cotillions, poultry shows and graduations. The Hudson Opera House is one of the oldest surviving theatres in America.

After City Hall moved up the street in 1962, the building was briefly a Moose Lodge, then was sold to an out-of-town developer. For nearly thirty years it sat vacant, decaying and accumulating debris. When the Opera House was threatened with further decay and possible eventual demolition, local citizens banded together to save the building. In 1992, Hudson Opera House, Inc., was formed as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to restoring the building both physically and to its position as a cultural and civic center.

Much work was required before any occupancy was possible. The basement had standing water from clogged sewers. The roof was leaking, causing further damage to ceilings and walls. The building had asbestos that had to be abated, and many four-legged and winged creatures had to be evicted. In addition, as a historic building that falls within the City of Hudson Historic District, restoration procedures require preservation studies, historically sensitive building plans, and approval from the State Historic Preservation Office for any restoration work undertaken. With funds raised through benefits and direct mail appeals, studies were completed, the roof was temporarily repaired and the space was slowly prepared for restoration. In 1996 HOH kicked off the Open the Door campaign and raised the money to open the first restored room in the building, the West Room, in December 1997. Since that time, four additional spaces on the first floor have opened and HOH has presented extensive, multi-cultural programming. Hudson Opera House, Inc. is now in the planning phase for completion of the entire restoration project." -- The Hudson Opera House

For more information on events, please click here.

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