The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts

Worcester, Massachusetts

Award Type: Honor Award

Constructed in 1904 as a burlesque theatre, the building on Southbridge Street in downtown Worcester, Mass. has been the mainstay of community life for more than a century. Originally known as the Grand Hanover Theatre was lavishly expanded in 1926 and renamed the Poli Palace in honor of a vaudeville impresario. Fans thronged to the 3,500-seat theatre with ornate painted plasterwork, marbleized columns, mirrored walls, a grand staircase and two-story lobby. In the 1960s when the theatre was converted to a four-screen movie house, many original features, including the stage, proscenium and seating boxes, were lost. Three decades later, the building was closed and abandoned for a decade. 

In 2002, ownership of the theatre was transferred to the Worcester Center for the Performing Arts, Inc., the first step in a successful public-private partnership that ultimately secured $31 million to renovate the theatre. The project required a skilled design team and an army of artisans to restore the 1904 façade and surviving interiors while installing modern systems and amenities. Working largely from historic photographs, the design and construction team carefully restored major lost features while adding a state-of-the-art lighting and sound system and stunning new glass pavilion. The theater also received another facelift with a new name: Hanover Theater.

Since the theatre’s grand reopening in 2008, more than 350,000 patrons have attended events and more than 7,000 have joined as subscribers or members. The new theatre has hosted hundreds of performances, reinvigorated Worcester’s cultural scene and enlivened the surrounding neighborhood.
“The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts is an architectural and community treasure,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  “A catalyst for the economic revitalization of the city and central Massachusetts, the theatre’s renovation is a textbook case on how to bring a building – and a neighborhood – back to life.”