By Teddy Foster
The year 2018 promises to be a year of transformation for Universal Preservation Hall and, we believe, for downtown Saratoga Springs.
Since aligning with Proctors Theatre in Schenectady in 2015, we have been driving toward a major renovation of the nearly 150-year-old hall, which was built in 1871.
That time is now. We have closed the doors at UPH and are now ensconced in temporary offices in Franklin Square. Not to worry, our friends from Universal Baptist Church are able to hold their services in the office suite, so their worship will not be interrupted. And we will launch a new public campaign in the spring, accompanied by fun fundraising events at various locations throughout the city and the county during the new year.
But the doors are closed?
Yes, because we’ve finally arrived at the point we’ve been waiting for—construction. Our vision will now be realized. All of the high Victorian gothic beauty of Universal Preservation Hall—from the Tiffany-inspired, stained-glass windows, to the sweeping arc of the great room, to the warm intimacy of the community room—will be maintained. The facility will also become a state-of-the-art, year-round arts venue and meeting place for downtown Saratoga.
We’re grateful for the many friends we’ve made in the past few years as we have been moving towards this goal. Restaurants, hotels, downtown businesses and colleagues in the arts are as excited as we are to take this giant step.
Upon completion, in 2019, the heart of the hall will be a 700-seat, arena-style performance venue, geared toward live music, but capable of hosting theater, dance, comedy and fashion, as well as conventions, weddings and community events.
UPH will truly be the community living room we have dreamed of, joining all the walks of Saratoga Springs and drawing visitors from far afield.
We will, when we can, offer hard-hat tours of the ongoing construction, which begins in the spring. We want our donors and supporters to see what’s happening at the hall and we want all to share our joy and interest as things change for the better.
In the interest of keeping our mission clear, we will be suspending our programming until completion of the project, and we are confident that the entire region will be dazzled by what we have to offer come 2019.
As noted, we will be in the community with various events to support UPH, and we’ll still have our fingers reaching out in a variety of ways.
We will continue, for example, to produce the popular Rochmon Record Club, presented by Chuck Vosganian. Rochmon, a deep-listening party geared around iconic classic rock albums, launched in our community room in 2016, and is in temporary residence at Caffé Lena on Phila Street.
Saratoga Springs is such a vibrant, growing city. We see new faces all the time; new businesses opening; new families strolling down the street; young folks dressed to the nines; ambitious entrepreneurs deciding to make the Spa City their permanent home. At UPH, we plan to be the hub for Saratoga, the very heart of a walkable downtown.
Saratoga Springs is so rich in culture and history and has such a legacy of being a summer spot for all of America. But we want to offer a much-needed touchstone all year round, serving citizens from Wilton to Greenfield Center and Schuylerville to Ballston Spa as well as out of town visitors.
Universal Preservation Hall was built as a Methodist church and speaker’s chamber and in that open spirit of the day it was a meeting place for concerned citizens and an important nexus of social discourse. Frederick Douglass spoke there. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, too. As did great orators like Henry Ward Beecher, William Jennings Bryan and Sen. Edgar T. Brackett.
When reopened in 2019, UPH will be all of those things and more. We welcome you to join us.
We’re still the best-kept secret in town—but not for long.
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