Before the turn of the century, founders of the Village's first public library — together known as the Mental and Moral Improvement Society of Irvington — deeded land to the Village with the provision that the building to be placed there house a free library, a reading room, and a public hall.
The theater was completed in 1902, and over the next sixty years, it became the center of cultural life in the Village, hosting concerts, recitals, balls, cotillions, graduations, and public meetings. In those days, you might have heard the echoes of opera singer Lillian Nordica floating into the streets, a campaign speech by Eleanor Roosevelt or her husband, or auditions for The Original Amateur Hour, hosted by Irvington resident Ted Mack.
By 1960, our beloved theater was little used. Changes in fire and health codes meant that the theater was in non-compliance, and the urgent need for additional library space prompted the closing off of the central hallway and staircase leading to the theater. Except for a handful of events, including a 1978 dollhouse exhibition and an overnight campout for the Boy Scouts, Irvington Theater sat dark for almost twenty years. With disuse came disrepair. Lighting was non-existent but for a few bare bulbs. The skylight leaked and left the theater open to the elements. The heat did not work, and the walls were quite literally crumbling.
In 1978, an interest group made up of Village residents, along with the the Junior League of Westchester-on-Hudson, began exploring the possibilities of restoring the theater and equipping it for modern use. The group presented a proposal to the Village Board of Trustees. After several meetings, the Village agreed to contribute $80,000 to the restoration, contingent on the interest group raising $20,000 to show community support for the project — which they did within a year thanks to the help of of the Junior League and the Thursday Club.
By 1980, Irvington Theater was renovated and ready for its grand reopening, replete with new safety systems, stairwells, plumbing, and lighting. The paint and plaster were restored to their early-20th century charm. That same year, the Theater Commission was established by the Village and tasked with the operation and management of the theater. Members of the Commission are appointed by Irvington's mayor and trustees.
For the past 40 years, Irvington Theater has become a vital presenter and curator of high-quality, innovative cultural programming that entertains, enlightens, and inspires. We produce our own programming and proudly present the work of our Arts Partners -- including Broadway Training Center, Clocktown Players, Common Ground Concerts, and River's Edge Theater Company. Our diverse range of theater, music, dance, film, comedy and more attracts a broad range of audiences from the greater New York metropolitan area.
Irvington Theater was built in 1902 in the Classic Revival style and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1984. Designed by A. J. Manning and patterned after Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., the theater is a multipurpose concert hall and music theater located on the entire third floor of Town Hall in downtown Irvington, New York. The 432-seat theater features a a proscenium stage and thrust, five backstage dressing rooms, and audience seating in the orchestra, mezzanine, balcony, and six charming gold-leafed boxes.
With an intimate yet grand feel and marvelous acoustics, Irvington Theater has been touted as “a jewel of a theater on the Hudson” by the New York Times. Gleaming white columns and Ionic capitals set off the warm ivory interior. The walls are wainscoted in warm oak. Elegant Victorian chandeliers and sconces were inspired by the 1902 originals. A plush red stage curtain and a forty-two-foot-high skylight complete this classic theatrical setting.