Poughkeepsie’s Playhouse: Bardavon 1869 Opera House

Located on Market Street in downtown Poughkeepsie, the Bardavon 1869 Opera House has drawn world-renowned stars to its stage for nearly a century and a half. The theater was originally dubbed the Collingwood Opera House when its doors opened on February 1, 1869, named after original owner James Collingwood. Multiple renovations later, the Bardavon boasts the title of being New York State’s longest continuously running theater.

The theater officially opened as the Bardavon Theatre on January 1, 1923, looking much like it does today. The original unique high dome ceiling remained, but the theater was transformed to house films in addition to live performances. From the roaring 20’s to 1975, the Bardavon was one of New York’s premier movie houses which also featured vaudeville shows and plays. It was scheduled to be demolished in 1975 before the Dutchess County Arts Council and a group of locals created the Concerned Citizens to Save the Bardavon group. They leased the historic building and created the Bardavon 1869 Opera House not-for-profit corporation to protect the beloved theater’s future. The building has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978.

Today, the Bardavon Opera House hosts live concerts, school performances, and other events. The theater’s original Wurlitzer Organ, originally installed in 1928, was sold off in the 1960’s but has since been re-installed and is now a cherished reminder of the Bardavon’s celebrated history. Tours of the 1,150 seat historic theater, which the Hudson Valley Philharmonic calls home, are offered to groups and the public.

Arlo Guthrie at the Bardavon (2014).

Since its doors opened, the Bardavon has hosted performances by Mark Twain, John Phillips Sousa, Frank Sinatra, Greg Allman, Art Garfunkel, Levon Helm, Bob Dylan, B.B. King, and Al Pacino. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt both frequented the historic theater while the Talking Heads, Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, Blue Man Group, The Felice Brothers, and Dark Star Orchestra have all taken stage at the Bardavon. With strong public support and recognition in the National Registry secured, the Bardavon 1869 Opera House’s impressive resume should continue to grow as the 21st century rolls on.