Chocolate Money Built The Music Hall
The historic 843-seat Music Hall, built in 1885 by chocolate manufacturer William Wallace, is the oldest theater in Westchester County and one of 6% of theaters in the United States built before 1900.
The Music Hall was erected during Tarrytown’s “Millionaire’s Colony” era. Notable Tarrytown residents such as the Goulds, Rockefellers, and Vanderbilts were patrons of the Music Hall, participating in its elaborate flowers shows, balls, and entertainment. Designed by distinguished architects Theodore DeLemos and August Cordeswho also built New York City’s Grand Central Palace and the Macy’s building at Herald Square, the Music Hall’s facade is considered to be one of the finest examples of Queen Anne decorative brickwork in the county. The Music Hall was one of the first theaters to show silent films in 1901 and was the venue for several national causes, including women’s suffrage in 1915. Antonin Dvorak, Rafael Jossefy, Mae West, and Woodrow Wilson are among the first performers and speakers to grace the Music Hall stage.
From the 1930’s on, the Music Hall was operated by local benefactor Robert Goldblatt and first run films were presented. The theater closed in 1976 largely due to the rise in popularity of multiplexes and television and it was soon thereafter proposed by the Village of Tarrytown that the theater be torn down to make way for a parking lot.
The Friends of the Mozartina Musical Arts Conservatory, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, educational, and cultural organization, purchased the theater on Valentine’s Day, 1980 with the purpose of establishing a center for the performing arts. The rescue was a risky one, for not only was the theater located in what many considered to be a depressed area, but it was also not operational due to a leaking roof, frozen heating pipes, insufficient electrical power, and other problems. The purchase and extensive renovations were made possible by Bank Vice-President Stephen Byelick who arranged a mortgage, and Founding Board Member Berthold F. Ringeisen who, convinced the theater was important for the community, placed his home and life savings up as collateral. As there was no money available for a staff, the theater was completely operated by volunteers for twenty-three years and Berthold and his wife, Helen, did most of the work themselves while balancing the demands of their full-time jobs as a college language professor and piano teacher respectively.
The Friends placed the Music Hall on the National Register for Historic Places in 1980 and the Music Hall today is a fully operating theater, offering the best in music, theater, dance, and film. With a full-time staff, sixty freelancers, and over 200 volunteers, it has become a cultural destination, attracting over 85,000 people including 25,000 children on an annual basis from all over the tri-state area. The theater is an economic engine, generating over $1 million for the local community and contributes over $100,000 of space to local nonprofit organizations. It recently received a maximum grant of $400,000 from the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation and a prestigious “Save America’s Treasures”matching grant through the support of Congresswoman Nita Lowey, was honored by The Thursday Club, and has received other awards and mentions.
Concertgoers have always been treated to a wonderful experience at the Music Hall due to its excellent acoustics. Notable artists who have performed and/or recorded in the Music Hall include Ani DiFranco, BB King, Bonnie Raitt, Boz Scaggs, Buddy Guy, Chris Isaak, Cyndi Lauper, Dave Brubeck, Gregg Allman, Indigo Girls, Jeff Tweedy, Joe Jackson, John Prine, Levon Helm, Lyle Lovett, Michael Bolton, Neko Case, Norah Jones, Pete Seeger, Randy Newman, Rufus Wainwright, Sonny Rollins, Tony Bennett, and Wynton Marsalis.Comedians such as Brian Regan, Joan Rivers, John Pinette, Lewis Black, and Steven Wright have taken the stage as have The Cake Boss and Jungle Jack Hanna.
Several films and commercials have been shot in the Music Hall with such actors as Denzel Washington, Jessica Alba, James Caan, Keanu Reeves, Matt Damon, Michael Keaton, Robert DeNiro, Stanley Tucci, Vera Farmiga, and Whitney Houston.
Music. Theater. Dance. Film. History. Nonprofit. Community.