FOCUS ON 2013 CONCLAVE: Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy

Our fifth venue visit on 2013′s Conclave Theatre Tour will be to:


30 Second Street, Troy, N.Y.
OPENED: April 19, 1875
ARCHITECT: George Browne Post
STYLE: Italian Renaissance
WEBSITE: troymusichall.org

Founded in 1823, The Troy Savings Bank operated from smaller banking offices until constructing a new headquarters in 1870. As a gift to the citizens of Troy, the new building included a music hall on the upper floor.

The architect, George Browne Post, was a graduate of the University of New York and studied under Richard Morris Hunt in the mid 1800s, becoming a respected architect in New York City. His preference for the Beaux Arts and French Renaissance styles can be seen in the highly detailed decorations of the building he designed for the bank and the Music Hall.
The building was completed in April 1875 at a final cost of $435,000. The massive six-story edifice dominated the surrounding neighborhood with the top floor Music Hall its crowning glory — 106 feet long, 69 feet wide and a towering 61 feet high.

Originally, granite stairs introduced patrons to the ornate grandeur of the hall. In 1923, structural alterations changed the Second Street main entrance to today’s configuration.Parquet and dress circle seats were, and still are, reached by using the center staircase. Iron staircases on either side guided the way to the upper and lower boxes, the balcony, and the gallery seating areas. Post designed all of the staircases himself and had them constructed by Architectural Iron Works in New York City. The hall’s seating capacity is unchanged from the original configuration at 1,253.

Intricate frescoes, crafted by another New York City firm, G. Garibaldi, decorated the walls about the stage and ceiling. The frescoes above the stage were covered by the addition of a large tracker action organ in October, 1890. Most of the original frescoing is still visible, except for the ceiling, where the replacement of the chandelier in 1930 also involved repair work on the ceiling frescoes. The new frescoes, created in 1930, outlined the rim of the ceiling and exhibited the popular Art Deco styling of the late twenties in the lettering, featuring the names of great classical composers such as J. S. Bach and Haydn.

The first chandelier featured 14,000 hand-cut French prisms catching the light of 260 gas burners. In 1923, it was converted to electric and later replaced by the chandelier in place today. The rest of the lighting was converted to electric in 1929 following an accident in which a gas lamp ignited a ballerina’s headdress. The fire marshal ordered the conversion to avoid further problems.

Throughout the twentieth century, Troy’s industrial dominance declined. As Troy’s wealth faded, so did its ability to support the arts on the scale to which it had become accustomed. The Music Hall faltered.

In 1979, a group of private citizens formed the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall Revitalization Committee. With the bank’s support and additional funding from the city, state and county for its administration, the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall Corporation was born. The 1979-1980 season opened with a performance by the Benny Goodman Band.

Today, the Troy Savings Bank perpetuates its gift to the Troy community through its ongoing restoration and renovation projects. The Hall, which was named a National Historic Landmark in 1989, is in use over 150 days a year, and looks forward to a future fully as bright as its storied past.

The Organ
The organ in the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall is the nation’s largest nineteenth-century concert organ in original condition, and, indeed, it is one of the most distinguished surviving examples of a “golden age” in American organ building. It was built in 1882 by the Yonkers firm of J.S. and C.S. Odell, and was originally installed in a New York mansion belonging to millionaire William Belden. It was subsequently purchased by the Troy Savings Bank and moved to the Music Hall in 1890. Apart from routine maintenance, which ceased several years ago, the instrument has remained essentially untouched since its installation and even most of the leather appears to be original. Among connoisseurs of historic American organs, the Music Hall Instrument is widely considered to be one of the most important and many prominent organists have expressed the hope that it will be restored.

Perfect example of a community music hall of this era.

(Portions of the text & image courtesy of the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. Notes on the organ by Scott Cantrell.)

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