$8.5M renovation planned for historic Hudson Valley theater

Aunt Dinah's Quilting Party, 1919 This production of an 1867 musical featured numerous Hudsonians. Note the stencil pattern around the proscenium, and the emergency stairs below the stage that led to the front center doors. Wild! (Courtesy: Hudson Opera House Facebok Page.

HUDSON, N.Y. (AP) – A 161-year-old theater in the Hudson Valley that hosted talks from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Theodore Roosevelt is undergoing a renovation.

The Hudson Opera House in Columbia County is considered the oldest surviving theater in New York State. The interior renovations will include rehabilitation of the performance hall, mezzanine and stage.

The project will cost $8.5 million and Governor Andrew Cuomo says it will be good for the economy. It’s expected to create 145 construction jobs which will be paid for by public and private funds. The theater is 161 years old, and its infrastructure is quickly falling apart.

Courtesy: Hudson Opera House Facebook

It was built in 1855 as Hudson’s city hall. It wasn’t until around 1880 when all town halls and city halls adopted the name “opera house.” The Opera House, at one point, was abandoned for 30 years. Overtime, the interior and exterior has severely aged.

“Hudson has changed so much all around us, and we feel that we’ve really led the way,” Hudson Opera House Executive Director Gary Schiro said.

Schiro has worked at the Opera House for 18 years. He’s been taking the time to cherish the performance hall for what it has been for many years.

“Susan B. Anthony stood on this stage twice,” he said. “Ralph Waldo Emerson and Teddy Roosevelt came here in 1914.”

The renovations are expected to be finished in one year. The opera house says they will still keep their doors open during the big makeover.

The focus of the project will be aimed at the performance hall and elevator tower for easy accessibility. At the same time, the character of the historical building, many of which were late nineteenth century additions, will be preserved.

Once everything is complete, visitors will notice more safety features and a more modern interior while keeping the historic feel to it.

“They’re going to be completely rehabilitating the performance hall, adding in new mechanical systems,” Schiro said. “We’ll be building an elevator tower; doing exterior rehabilitation as well; some brick work.”

The renovations are expected to be finished in one year. The opera house says they will still keep their doors open during the big makeover.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.