By Michael Pagano
Last October, as a member of a delegation that traveled from Worcester, Massachusetts to Austin, Texas to accept a Preservation Honor Award for the restoration of what is now known as The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, I had a sudden flashback to the route we had taken to get there.
I vividly recalled the day I toured an abandoned, dark, dirty hulk of a structure in downtown Worcester. At one time this building had been a magnificent Poli Palace designed by renowned architect Thomas Lamb. But as I stepped over debris and peered around walls designed to create four separate movie theaters in the late 1960s, I could scarcely find a trace of its original grandeur.
I had always loved the challenges involved in restoring historic buildings. But this building? Could it be saved? And what would it take to pull it off?
Enter the community: The local leaders who stepped forward to form a nonprofit group. The corporate, foundation, and individual donors who funded the $31 million renovation. The teams of designers, contractors, artisans, and engineers who found a way to incorporate modern systems into their restoration of the original design. And a management team that has brought Broadway plays, comedy shows, opera, and other performances to more than 400,000 enthusiastic patrons since the grand opening in 2008. Working together, they accomplished what many had considered impossible.
Today, Worcester and the surrounding communities are enjoying top-tier performances in an awe-inspiring setting. But the benefits don’t stop there. The spin-off effect is being felt in local restaurants. New investment dollars are being earmarked for downtown economic development. And the city is taking a fresh look at the possibility of restoring other historic landmarks that are underused or abandoned.
In Worcester, we embrace this award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. And we encourage other cities and towns with shuttered historic theaters to take a fresh look at the community spirit as well as the economic vitality that can flow from the restoration of these architectural treasures.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.