Newly renovated Memorial Hall now open to the public


The yearlong, $11 million renovation of Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine is now complete. Although finishing touches are still being added, Memorial Hall opened to the public on Nov. 25 for its first art exhibit, Brickmas. It will be on display through Dec. 30.
 
Memorial Hall sits between Music Hall — which will reopen next fall after a $135 million renovation — and the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s new, $17 million Otto M. Budig Theater, which will open in September 2017.

Memorial HallBuilt in 1908 by local architecture firm Samuel Hannaford & Sons, the 100-year-old Beaux Arts building was built to honor veterans of the Spanish-American War and the Civil War. The building is currently owned by Hamilton County.
 
It was once used by the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players and the MusicNOW Festival, but the building had been underused in recent decades because it lacked updated amenities like air conditioning, adequate restrooms and backstage areas.
 
Besides restoring the outward appearance of Memorial Hall, many historical details of the building were preserved. The original wrought iron décor is still intact, and the historic hat racks underneath the seats were kept. The building's reception areas feature original stenciling that has also been fully restored.
 
Updates include:
  • Wider seats, which reduced the total number of seats in the theater from 610 to 506. Padding was also added to the wooden seats. Handicap accessible seating areas have been added.
  • New theatrical lighting, a new sound system, a new laser projector and a screen for showing films have been installed. New cushions were added for sound absorption, as well as adjustable, sound absorbing drapes in some doorways.
  • The stage was extended five feet.
  • New glass doors were added to insulate the hall from noise in the marble stairwells.
  • The passenger elevator on the building’s north side remains, and a new service elevator was added. For the first time, a grand piano will be able to be moved on and off the stage with little difficulty.
  • A new outdoor patio area was added, as well as new bars throughout the building, which will allow for light bites, desserts, beer and wine tastings from local restaurants, craft breweries and wine distributors.
The theater itself is being renamed the Annie W. and Elizabeth M. Anderson Theater in honor of the foundation that is underwriting the upcoming concert series.
 
In February, the foundation will launch the Longworth-Anderson Series, featuring concerts from contemporary artists. The winter-spring season will open on Feb. 10 with Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash, with musical collaborator and husband John Leventhal. Other artists include Pink Martini featuring Chyna Forbes on March 9, Richard Thompson on April 7 and Sarah Jarosz on June 9.
 
The Memorial Hall Society will also program up to 10 events each year. There will also be other programs lined up by 3CDC, which oversaw the building’s renovation and manages Memorial Hall, as well as community programs and event rentals.
 
The public is invited to Memorial Hall’s official ribbon cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. on Dec. 2. The ribbon cutting will be followed by tours of the building.
 

Read more articles by Caitlin Koenig.

Caitlin Koenig is a Cincinnati transplant and 2012 grad of the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. She's the department editor for Soapbox Media and currently lives in Northside with her husband, Andrew, and their three furry children. Follow Caitlin on Twitter at @caite_13.  
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