Jim Gilbert / Nippertown
SARATOGA SPRINGS — “We finally did it.”
Universal Preservation Hall Director Teddy Foster exclaimed those words to a group of guests from inside the old church’s grand hall moments before it would host Rosanne Cash on Saturday, Feb. 29.
The night represented a culmination of nearly 20 years — and more than $7 million — worth of effort to save, preserve and renovate the former Methodist-Episcopal Church that was originally built in 1871.
The nearly 150-year-old church was condemned in 2000 and slated for demolition before a grassroots effort saved it in 2003. In 2015, Proctors announced it would join the effort to revitalize the church on Washington Street into an 800-seat venue for the arts, music and theatre.
The union between UPH and Proctors ties Schenectady and Saratoga counties in an effort to promote effective arts partnership through regionalism. Proctors manages operations, marketing and relationships for UPH.
The goal of the partnership is to generate commerce for downtown Saratoga Springs and surrounding business districts through patronage of restaurants, shops and services as guests attend concerts of all types; wedding receptions; lectures; dance performances; theatrical productions; film festivals; corporate meetings; art gallery events and more.
The 12,000-square-foot venue is anticipated to host 200 hosts a year, with a concentration on music events. Some nights will be open for public and civic events such as political debates. An undisclosed portion of the property will be rented out for professional use.
The Great Hall, from which the entertainment will perform, is accentuated by a vaulted, 45-foot ceiling and banks of stained glass windows.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.