On January 2nd, 2005, the Hudson Opera House celebrated its 150th anniversary with the following program:
The Editor Returns – 1 pm
January 2nd, 1855
The inaugural lecture was given by
George W. Curtis, editor of Harper’s Weekly.
January 2nd, 2005
The sesquicentennial address will be given by
Lewis H. Lapham, author and current editor of Harper’s.
Encore for Madam Gazzaniga – 2:30 pm
Sure it’s been a century or so, but sooner or later she had to come back! Mary Hack appears as the legendary diva described in the Hudson Daily Register as “one of the finest singers in the world.” Gwen Gould accompanied her on the piano.
Arias & Declarations – 4 pm
A staged reading of a work-in-progress drawn from the words of
19th-century Hudson Opera House visitors.
Plus – Ribbon Cutting, Exhibitions, Tours, Ongoing Youth Activities,
Refreshments and more. All events are free!
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. Around 1880, at the height of the Gilded Age, and shortly after Paris built it’s new Opera House, many town halls and city halls in America changed their names to ‘Opera House’ 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 auditorium upstairs was used for everything from traveling lecture presentations and musical and theatrical events to local functions like dances, cotillions, poultry shows and graduations. According to the League of Historic American Theatres, 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 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 to these challenges there were other challenges as well. 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 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.