Upgrades make 115-year-old Town Hall Theatre more comfortable, marketable

A small Washington Twp.-operated theater with more than a century of history recently underwent a renovation primarily funded by donations.

Town Hall Theatre was built in 1908, but the last time new seats were installed was the 1950s, according to Mark Metzger, who served as the producing artistic director at the theater for 20 years before becoming the township’s recreation director in 2016.

He recalls sitting in the auditorium at 27 N. Main St., Centerville in 1996 and realizing something needed to be done about its bare floors and plywood seats with barely any padding.

“It felt very much like an old, outdated school auditorium,” he said.

Having such an outdated venue has an impact on young performers, he said.

“We have a children’s theater that’s almost in its 30th year that performs in there,” Metzger said. “Any parents at any of their performances have had to sit in those seats over the years and (having new seats installed) elevates the experience for them and for theatergoers.”

Having a remodeled theater also helps improve acoustics, Metzger said.

“It had a very echoey feel to it, and so updating the drapes and the seating, having all the padding that it didn’t have before, has helped tremendously,” he said.

Because of the era in which the theater was constructed, it also lacked any kind of handicap-accessible seating, Metzger said. That was remedied by installing automated lifts.

Renovation efforts started in 2021 with an HVAC system upgrade funded by the federal CARES Act. The remainder of those efforts, including replacing seats, flooring and 30-year-old curtains, installing a chair lift and adding handicap-accessible seating, got put on hold until last year due to manufacturing delays.

The more than $174,000 renovation saw Washington Twp. pay just under $46,000. The bulk of the project’s cost was covered primarily via an adopt-a-seat campaign that generated more than $128,000. That included an $86,445 Community Block Grant from Montgomery County and $20,000 from the Centerville Noon Optimist Club.

“(That’s) pretty incredible and definitely showcases the support that Town Hall has from the community,” said township spokeswoman Kate Trangenstein.

The adopt-a-seat campaign is ongoing and will continue to raise funds to cover the cost of the project, she said.

The structure was built to hold town meetings, graduations and Grange activities, according to the township, which housed its government offices there until 1985.

The remodeling effort also help the township broaden the usability of the building and makes it easier to market it as a venue for activities such as concerts, films and weddings, Metzger said.

“None of that works unless you’ve done some updates to the space that make it a little more usable,” he said.

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