Maryland| Posted: 08/18/2004
The Hippodrome Theatre is historically significant both for its association with the performing arts and entertainment in Baltimore, hosting stars like Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman, and as an outstanding example of early 20th century theatre design. The Hippodrome Theatre was the premiere vaudeville theatre of Baltimore, was one of its first motion picture theatres, and is the epitome of buildings in the West Side of downtown Baltimore which reflect the neighborhood`s previous vitality as a commercial and entertainment center. The theatre reflects the era of live entertainment for the masses and the memories of its former glory are deeply imbedded in the fabric of local culture. The work of Thomas White Lamb (1871-1942), one of America`s leading theatre architects of the period, the building`s design demonstrates a mastery of scale, proportion, and exterior and interior decoration and detailing which was outstanding in its day and is Lamb`s oldest existing American theatre outside of New York City.
Once the center of social activity on the West Side, the theatre had quietly deteriorated over the past few decades, standing only as a prominent reminder of a formerly vibrant district. Today, the $56 million restoration of this theatre stands as the catalyst to the $1 billion in private investment for the revitalization of the West Side, the largest economic development initiative in Baltimore`s history. Recognizing the demands and expectations of the new world of theatre and the performing arts, the Hippodrome Foundation undertook the renovation and adaptation of the historic Hippodrome Theatre into the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center with world-class development partners, the Maryland Stadium Authority and Clear Channel Entertainment.
Designed by renowned theatre architecture firm Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, the Center is a combination of new construction with the renovation of three historic buildings: the Hippodrome Theatre (1914), the former Eutaw Savings Bank (1887), and the former Western National Bank (1890). While the Center`s technology and amenities are state-of-the-art, the interior of the auditorium – the original Hippodrome Theatre – appears very much as it did when it originally opened in 1914. Over the past 18 months, restoration professionals have spent thousands of hours repairing and recreating ornamental plasterwork, gilded moldings and other furnishings. The original color palette of beige, rose, and taupe, along with the layers of glazing, has been replicated. Six opera boxes, removed in the 1960`s to make room for a new Cinemascope movie screen, have been recreated, and a water-damaged mural "The Triumph of Performing Arts" by artist Vincent Maragliotti has been reconstructed. The Hippodrome mural marked the beginning of Maragliotti`s prolific and successful career. Seats, wall coverings, carpet and lighting have been selected to replicate the originals as closely as possible.
The successful completion of the Hippodrome Theatre restoration is also an example of the positive effects of public-private partnerships in leveraging investment in a previously neglected neighborhood. Working together, the Hippodrome Foundation, Clear Channel Entertainment and the Maryland Stadium Authority have become a model for combining preservation and economic development for the benefit of community revitalization. This project, which preserves the historic character of the building while incorporating modem amenities, is an excellent example for older urban neighborhoods to replicate. As the centerpiece of the West Side renaissance, the Hippodrome Theatre restoration proves that historic preservation can be a catalyst for revitalizing an inner downtown area.
For more information contact:
24 W. Saratoga Street
Baltimore, MD 21202