After several years of searching, a Seneca Falls non-profit agency has found the perfect site for a Seneca Falls Performing Arts Center.
Board President Mary McDonald tells us how they were able to acquire the Congregational Church at 35 State St. that formerly housed the House of Concern food pantry.
From a news release:
The building possesses a rich history that started off with a lot of drama, and the Seneca Falls Performing Arts Center is hoping it has a much greater future with this new revival. Built in 1870, the building’s origins came to be as a result of conflict within another church. In 1869 members of the Wesleyan Chapel were in a confrontational disagreement over whether or not members of secret societies, such as the Odd Fellows, Free Masons, and Good Templars should be allowed to become, or stay members of the church. The controversy was so well known that the whole village was very much involved. Lawsuits were filed, police were called, property was stolen! This disagreement caused a faction of around 100 members to leave and create their own church, laying the cornerstone for 35 State Street in August of 1870. Presumed to still be there, the cornerstone of the building was filled with artifacts and letters of the time. The Italianate style building was originally constructed with a spire that reached 70 feet, which at the time was the largest structure in Seneca County. The church was completed and dedicated in September, 1871.
Much like the controversy in 1869, the SFPAC board hopes that this project will also involve the whole community, but in a much more positive way. As the Seneca Falls community has been hearing about the project, many are excited about the possibilities. “I’ve been wanting something like this for a long time. Definitely felt we needed something for the kids around here to do again. I love this idea,” stated Giovanna Christopher Paradise of Seneca Falls. When the group asked Facebook followers what kind of events they thought Seneca Falls needed more of, the responses varied. The community wanted to see recitals for local musicians and students, dinner theatre, a jazz festival, improv and talent shows, a space as a local art gallery, and an indoor winter market. With those suggestions in mind, the floor plans for the refurbished building were designed to accommodate all of them. And more.
Plans call for an intimate space that will allow capacity for nearly 300 guests. The church’s original great hall will be transformed into a large adaptive space, housing a 15 x 28-foot stage. The seating will be non permanent allowing for tables, or an open floor plan if the event calls for it. The original building annex will be converted into a piano lounge, with a refreshment bar and additional seating. A commercial kitchen, green room, box office, multiple storage spaces and updated restrooms will complete the renovation. The board hopes to have the annex portion opened as soon as possible so that guests will be able to use the space, and participate in the center’s overall transformation.
For more information on this project and to find out how to donate, please contact the Seneca Falls Performing Arts Center at [email protected], visit www.SenecaFallsPAC.org, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Listen to my full Inside the FLX conversation with Mary McDonald and Mary Sarratori below.