Greenport’s remarkably intact 1894 Queen Anne-style auditorium retains the unique ambiance of America’s turn-of-the-century theaters. Operated as a home furnishings showplace since the 1940s, the longtime owners are interested in restoring the auditorium to original use as a performance venue, but lack the resources and capacity to fund and organize a complex preservation project. Meanwhile, as historic downtown Greenport continues to revitalize, developers and real estate speculators are actively pursuing large commercial properties like this one to redevelop. Since the village’s preservation ordinance does not protect interior spaces, the rare surviving historical stage and other interior features could be lost to redevelopment.
Constructed by local builder Charles Henry Corwin (1855–1937), the Greenport Auditorium was conceived and funded by Miss Sarah Jackson Adams (1898–1982), a community leader and active Presbyterian Church member who advocated for women’s suffrage. As the village center for arts and cultural entertainment, the auditorium accommodated up to 700 guests for popular dramas, vaudeville, musicals, and bands.
This corner property features elements of Victorian design including a shingled exterior, a prominent tower with garland ornamentation, dentilation, and an open porch with round top arches containing decorative spindles, classic columns, and decorative faux arches.
The structure’s historic and architectural integrity is exceptional. Original theater elements include a curved balcony with original metal grillwork, round ceiling lights, and limelights (19th-century foot-lights). Several rows of original seating are stored in the historic dressing rooms below the stage.
Greenport Auditorium was used as a theater from 1894 until the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, which devastated much of Long Island’s maritime economy. The building sat vacant until the late 1940s when a local businessman opened a family-owned furniture showplace there. Today, the property is still family-owned and operated as a furniture store and showplace.
Status: At Risk
As Greenport’s historic port community continues to revitalize, developers and real estate speculators are actively pursuing large commercial properties like the auditorium for redevelopment. The rare surviving historical stage and other interior features could be destroyed by a redevelopment project, as the village’s landmark ordinance does not protect interior spaces. Preservation Long Island is working closely with Greenport Village’s Historic Preservation Commission and the current property owners to investigate viable rehabilitation plans to restore the building to its original use as a community theater and arts space.
- Seek out financial incentives like the federal historic tax credits for returning the Greenport Auditorium to its original use. Being located in a qualifying census tract, rehabilitation of the auditorium may also be eligible for the New York State historic tax credits program.
- Consider preservation easements to protect the building and help raise funds for the rehabilitation project.
- Explore potential tax credit equity investments or syndication through limited partnerships to bring investors into the project.
- Consider adding a provision for interior landmarks to the local preservation ordinance.
Preservation Long Island’s 2019 Endangered Historic Places Program is made possible in part by a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.