Auditorium  at Academy of Music.jpg

By George Lenker | Special to The Republican
on May 06, 2015 at 11:28 AM

A vibrant city combines the best of the old and new, and when it comes to historic venues presenting modern shows, it’s hard to beat Northampton’s Academy of Music Theatre.

The Academy of Music has just been honored with a Massachusetts Historical Commission Preservation Award for its renovations that were completed last fall. The award will be presented May 29 at the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s 37th annual awards ceremony.

The renovations included work that saw the restoration of the main hall’s ornate plaster as well as a new paint job in a period color scheme that was researched by stripping the existing paint layers, according Debra J’Anthony, executive director of the independent nonprofit arts organization that manages the building.

The theater’s 800 seats and the aisle lighting were also part of the refurbishment, as was critical work on the insulated roof above the stage.

“The careful restoration of the Academy of Music Theatre demonstrates a strong commitment to historic preservation that goes well beyond what is normally expected,” wrote William F. Galvin, secretary of the Commonwealth and chairman of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, in his notice to the Academy.

More than 50,000 patrons attend Academy performances, films and other events each year, and many have noticed the new look.

“Both new patrons and old fans have been bowled over by the new gilding, the colors and the trompe l’oeil ceiling,” J’Anthony said.

The renovations were led by Northampton-based Thomas Douglas Architects via $500,000 from state and city sources, including the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, the Northampton Community Preservation Act and the City of Northampton, plus more than $150,000 in donations raised during a capital campaign last fall—the first in the Academy’s history.

Built by Northampton native Edward H. R. Lyman, the Academy of Music opened in 1891 as a state-of-the art opera house. Lyman deeded the building to the City of Northampton in 1892, making it the nation’s first municipally owned theater. The full-fly proscenium stage and full-size screen are unique in the region, according to J’Anthony.

“The Academy staff and board are thrilled with this recognition and with the community’s recognition of the Academy’s importance,” said Andrew Crystal, president of the theater’s board of directors, “The continued financial support of the community has been incredible.”