Hudson Opera House Renamed Henry Hudson Hall

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Proscenium stage before and afterThe 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.

Completed ahead of schedule, renovations and improvements of Henry Hudson Hall’s facilities were funded by an $8.5 million campaign, of which $7.5 million has been secured with lead gifts from the Board of Directors; public support from Empire State Development, New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation, New York State Council on the Arts; and private funds from foundations and individuals, including major gifts from the Educational Foundation of America and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also provided investment through its Community Facilities Program, secured with assistance from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and in partnership with Kinderhook Bank, which aims to improve rural community infrastructure and quality of life.

Renovations to the second-floor performance hall include a flexible 300-seat theater, new heating, ventilation and cooling systems, high-end performance equipment and extensive rehabilitation of the mezzanine, stage and support spaces. Installation of structural steel and a new basement slab help to support the structure, while asbestos and lead abatement, installation of an elevator, and new electrical and fire systems have upgraded the building’s safety and accessibility. The restoration and improvements were overseen by Preservation Architecture, and carried out under the great care of Consigli Construction NY.

Photo: Proscenium stage before (left) and restoration in process (right); photo, courtesy of Henry Hudson Hall.

One thought on “Hudson Opera House Renamed Henry Hudson Hall

  1. Peter K. Evans

    I believe there might be some very strong push back on the designation as oldest theater.
    Gates Hall in Pultneyville, NY has been working closely with the Library of Congress for decades on this very issue and designation. Gates Hall is on the NY State and National Register of Historic Places, so its history, uses and existence as a theater are well documented.
    Their research suggests that a building date of 1825 with continuous theater presentations dating from 1867 to the present makes it the oldest community theater in the United States in continuous operation.
    There are buildings that were used for theater in the past which may be older but have not been used for theater productions in a long time. There are also theater operations which have been running longer but not in the same building and certainly not the two designations together in one place.
    The Library of Congress agrees with our research (letters in hand to substantiate this) though everyone admits that designations such as first or oldest….etc. are very difficult to prove just because you can’t find an exception. I am well aware of this documentation effort because I sat on the Gates Hall Board for about 20 years and was President of the Board when we transferred custodial ownership of the hall and surrounding park property to the Williamson-Pultneyville Historical Society in 2000.
    Bottom line, you can pretty much say what you want, as evidenced by the media circus going on these days, however, if you believe in academic rigor and true provenance, then your research and documentation needs to support your statements and claims.
    What is at stake is the notion of true civic pride because the “truth” is always elusive.
    Those of us interested in history, must safe guard the academic processes that each day leads us all closer to the elusive goal embodied by what we call “the truth”.


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