State Theater (Ithaca, New York)
State Theatre of Ithaca, Inc.
|Location||105-109 W. State St., Ithaca, New York|
|Area||0 acres (0 ha)|
|Architect||Rigaumont, Victor A.; Hinckley, Henry N.|
|Architectural style||Collegiate Gothic|
|NRHP Reference #||96000613|
|Added to NRHP||June 14, 1996|
State Theatre of Ithaca, Inc. is a historic, 1600-seat theatre located at Ithaca in Tompkins County, New York that hosts various events from bands, to plays, to comedy acts, to silent films, and more. As Ithaca's premiere music and arts venue, The State Theatre of Ithaca, Inc.’s mission is to present top-quality entertainment in a variety of formats to enhance the lives of the residents of the Ithaca community and the surrounding Finger Lakes region.
History of the State Theatre
The State Theatre building dates back to 1915. Designed by local architect Henry N. Hinckley, it was originally the Ithaca Security Company auto garage and dealership. The Berinstein family, people with a vision, purchased the building in 1928. They hired architect Victor Rigaumont to design and oversee the transformation of the garage and showroom into an atmospheric cinema and vaudeville palace, Rigaumont incorporated elements of the Moorish and Renaissance Revival Styles and the Collegiate Gothic symbolism of Cornell University to create a magical haven for theatre and moviegoers. Opening night, December 6, 1928, was a memorable and entertaining spectacle.
The State Theatre flourished as a premier entertainment venue and was a source of great pride to Tompkins County residents for almost seven decades. Beginning with vaudeville, the theater has evolved with the times. When movies became more popular in the early 1930s, the theater thrived primarily as a cinema house. After World War II, with the advent of television and suburban movies houses, downtown cinema palaces like the State struggled. To adapt, the owners added a second movie screen in the 1970s, dividing the balcony from the main house.
Ultimately, the theater closed in the 1980s because of financial difficulties and the demands of long-deferred maintenance. Attempts to revive the theater over the next fifteen years have failed, though the community succeeded in having the theater listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Finally, in 1997, the theater was condemned by the City of Ithaca because of serious roof damage, a failing heating an ventilation system, and the safety hazards caused by falling plaster and out-of-date electrical systems. The owners seriously, though reluctantly, considered demolition.
Community anxiety about the State Theatre was intense. Downtown Ithaca once boasted seventeen grand theaters, including the Lyceum, the Crescent, and the Strand. The State Theatre is the last remaining cinema and vaudeville palace in Ithaca. For the State Theatre to be lost was widely considered unacceptable. But saving the State was an immense task: how could it be done?
In May 1998 Historic Ithaca responded to the community’s distress signal. With community support, the organization purchased the failing structure and assumed the role of preservationist, developer and manager, establishing the State Theatre Restoration Project. Historic Ithaca staff and volunteers galvanized public support and accepted the daunting task of reversing the building’s condemnation. This included replacement or serious repair of the main roof, the dangerously disintegrated plaster walls, the outdated electrical systems, the fire detection system, and the heating and ventilation systems.
Strong community support bolstered this first phase of the project and secured desperately needed funding from municipal, foundation and private donors; leaders from the business, arts, preservation and political communities were involved. In 1999, the American Institute of Architects recognized the State Theatre as one of the most significant architectural landmarks in New York State.
Between 1998 and December 2001, Phase I of the State Theatre Restoration Project was completed. After years of community effort the State Theatre regained its occupancy permit, and with great anticipation the theater re-opened with gala festivities on December 5, 2001. Every seat was full, as young and old came together in a joyous celebration of community.
In the spring of 2009, The State Theatre of Ithaca, Inc., a newly formed 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, purchased the State Theatre from Historic Ithaca. This allowed Historic Ithaca to return to its core mission of promoting architectural preservation programs and services in the Ithaca community. As the new caretakers of this beautiful building, they take great pride in the architectural genius, outstanding acoustics, and exquisite ornamentation that can be found throughout the hall. Without them, this community gem would have been demolished many years ago.
The State Theatre today
The State Theatre consists of a primary staff of Executive Director Doug Levine, Official Talent Buyer Dan Smalls Presents, Director of Theater Operations Jean Hubbell, Production Manager Mike Garrett, and Box Office Associate & Volunteer Coordinator Carolyn V. Ambrose. A twelve-member board of directors oversees the State Theatre of Ithaca. Volunteers assist as ushers, ticket takers, concessions workers, office helpers, and stagehands. The State Theatre is always welcoming new volunteers to join their team.
- July 13–15 - Running to Places presents Oklahoma
- August 17–19 - Running to Places presents Urinetown
- September 9 - Mary Chapin Carpenter
- September 14 - Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood
- September 15 - Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band
- September 26 - Carolina Chocolate Drops
- September 29 - Punch Brothers
- September 30 - The Little Farm Show
- October 5 - The Swingle Singers
- October 6 - Reduced Shakespeare Company Presents: Special Election Edition of ‘The Complete History of America (abridged)
- October 11 - Craig Ferguson
- October 25 - Glen Campbell - The Farewell Tour
- November 1 - Citizen Cope
- November 2 - New York Banjo Summit featuring Bela Fleck w/ Tony Trischka, Eric Weisberg (Dueling Banjos), Richie Stearns, Peter Wernick (Hot Rize) Mac Benford (Backwoods Band)
- November 10 - An Evening with Bill Engvall
- November 18 - Paul Taylor 2 Dance Company
- November 30 - African Children's Choir
- December 2 - Mermaid Theatre's Treasured Stories of Eric Carle
- February 17 - Galumpha
- February 26 - The Chieftains
- March 16 - Golden Dragon Acrobats present 'Cirque Ziva'
- April 12 - Imago Theatre's ZooZoo
- Aug 6 - Steve Earle and the Dukes and Duchesses
- Sept 9 - Okkervil River with New Villager
- Sept 13 - They Might Be Giants
- Sept 18 - Garrison Keillor
- Sept 23 - Gabriel Iglesias
- Sept 29 - Gordon Lightfoot
- Oct 2 - Dinosaurs!
- Oct 8 - Richard Thompson
- Oct 19 - Goo Goo Dolls
- Oct 21 - The Second City - Laugh Out Loud Tour
- Oct 22 - Peter Yarrow
- Oct 23 - Gillian Welch
- Nov. 5 - Joan Baez & Kris Kristofferson
- Nov. 8 - Joe Bonamassa
- Nov. 11 - Rob Bell
- Nov. 16 - Drive By Truckers / Felice Bros.
- Nov. 19 - Dark Star Orchestra
- Nov. 26 - Ray Davies
- Dec. 3 - Harlem Gospel Choir
- Dec. 11 - Brian Regan
- Feb. 15 - Pink Floyd Experience
- Feb. 16 - Demetri Martin
- Feb. 18 - Stringfever
- Feb. 19 - Galumpha
- Feb. 23 - Cowboy Junkies
- Mar. 21 - Gaelic Storm
- Mar. 31 - Loretta Lynn
- Apr. 14 - Bobby McFerrin
- Apr. 21 - The Avett Brothers
- May 1 - Trailer Park Boys Live
- May 6 - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
- June 8 - Lindsey Buckingham
- June 19 - Fiona Apple
- June 21 - Hot Tuna 
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
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