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A rebirth for historic theater

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Albany/HV: A rebirth for historic theater
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One of the oldest public theaters in the country is getting a face lift. Our Vince Gallagher has more.

HUDSON, N.Y. -- "This will certainly be the biggest and most comprehensive restoration that's ever been done since the building was built in 1855," said Gary Schiro, Hudson Opera House Executive Director.

It is New York State’s oldest surviving theater. The Hudson Opera House is in need of some big improvements.

Schiro said, "It was built as the city hall for Hudson and was a very typical 19th century town hall where the first floor held various municipal offices and up on the second floor is a grand auditorium that was used for all sort of performers."

The Opera House was a big cultural draw from the 1800 right up to the mid 20th century.

And the building was sold in 1962, even though it was occasionally rented, it remained essentially abandoned.

Schiro said, "And in 1992, a group of local citizens banded together to buy the building and started the restoration process.

Years later, on the verge of closing, the theater is now experiencing a rebirth.

"Once this space is open, we will use it to take the programming that we built down on the first floor of the building and bring it upstairs and let it spread out,” Schiro said.

That includes everything from concerts to community gatherings, or as their motto goes, "You name it we do it."

The restoration will bring a lot of new to this old building, but they want to keep some history intact, like these four original seats from the first phase of the building and up on stage, a few past visitors.

Schiro said, "Teddy Roosevelt, who refused to go on until he was given a second bowl of soup from across the street. Susan B. Anthony, who came to the building on several occasions to talk about abolition and women's suffrage."

The whole process will be done in bits and pieces, as funding become available.

"But now we are well on our way,” Schiro said. “We put the first new roof on the building in 2008, the first new roof since 1939."

Schiro says he hopes to open the second floor to the public within the next few years, as they move on to another stage.

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