Poughkeepsie’s Bardavon Celebrates 150 Years

The historic opera house marks a major birthday occasion with community events and guest performers in 2019.


Who doesn’t have a memory at the Bardavon? For children and families of the Hudson Valley, the historic opera house has long been a destination for community, culture, and good times. Kids can catch free screenings of beloved flicks like Fantasia and James Bond, while adults can escape for an evening at Nutcracker ballets and acclaimed jazz performances.

Of course, the Bardavon’s living legacy is nothing new. Since 1869, the Dutchess County opera house has been a historic monument for locals and visitors alike. Week in and week out, the theater opens its doors for acclaimed dance spectacles, award-winning bands, and local movie nights. As far as famous names go, everyone from FDR to Aretha Franklin to John Legend has graced the stage — or sat in the audience.

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The Bardavon in 1926


In fact, the history of the Bardavon Opera House begins just after the Civil War, when British immigrant and merchant James Collingwood began work on the Collingwood Opera House, or what would eventually become the Bardavon of today. After a long eight months of construction, the theater finally welcomed the public for the first time on February 1, 1869.

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A little over 50 years later, the Collingwood reopened under new owners at the Bardavon. No longer just an opera house, it now played host to everything from dance companies and silent movies to Vaudeville performers and musicians. The going was good until the 1970s, when dwindling interest forced the space to close in 1975. Things looked bleak for the historic stage, which once welcomed the likes of Mark Twain and Theodore Roosevelt. Yet even amid threats of demolition, the Bardavon found a way to rally. With community support and a recognition on the National Register of Historic Places, it found the strength to reopen in 1979.


The Bardavon in 1943


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Now, in 2019, the Bardavon prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary in the Hudson Valley. 150 years to the day, the theater will welcome the community to its celebratory open house. The free event kicks off at 5 p.m. on February 1 and is part of Poughkeepsie’s First Friday festivities, which aim to promote community and culture within the city. Locals and visitors alike are welcome to swing by the hotspot for performances by the Julliard-trained Wholly Brass Band and small bites from Henry’s at the Farm. At 6 p.m., Poughkeepsie Major Rob Rolison joins forces with Bardavon Executive Director Chris Silva for a birthday toast and cake-cutting with Frida’s Bakery.

During the course of the evening, visitors can also explore the theater and speak with staff about their experiences behind-the-scenes with visiting artists and performers.

While Friday’s event marks the main anniversary celebration, locals should keep a watchful eye for upcoming events throughout the year. To learn more about the 2019 schedule of events, follow along with the Bardavon on Facebook or check out its website.


The Bardavon in 1946

The Bardavon in 2002

Inside the Bardavon

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