About Us

Friday, September 14

Upper Lobby Restoration Revealed

It’s hard to know what to look at first - the enlarged space, the natural light, the tall ceilings dotted with three crystal chandeliers, paint and carpet colors that echo the dome in the auditorium, or the gold-toned granite counters resting on cherry cabinetry. Digital screens over the concession stand inform patrons of upcoming shows and of the upgraded menu including beer, wine and the new Music Hall chocolate bars.

And, it’s all a result of the collaborative efforts of visionary donors, and a team led by Ben Auger. President of Auger Building Company and the chair of The Music Hall’s Facilities and Restoration Committee, Auger led the effort to dramatically transform the upper lobby, “This process has been quite collaborative – and we have many people to thank who gave of their time and resources to make it happen including Chinburg Builders and Rockingham Electric. And, the Facilities Committee and the Board of Trustees, under the leadership of David Hills, were especially hard working and supportive.”

Patricia Lynch, Executive Director, is thrilled with the latest renovation. She recalls when she arrived in 2004, it literally was raining inside the theater. “I remember thinking that the Historic Theater was like a beautiful woman dressed in an old baggy coat and ruined shoes – but you knew the beautiful woman was trying to get out!”

That thinking informed all five renovation/restoration projects that have been overseen by TMS Architects design team of John Merkle and Nicole Martineau. The first addressed the leaking roof, buttressed the staircases, and revealed the original proscenium arch. The second project brought back the auditorium to its 1878 splendor. The third carved out new space under the auditorium for the Founders Lobby. The fourth rehabbed a space around the corner on Congress Street for the new Loft 124-seat theater and administrative offices. And, the fifth project, which included Diane Hart for interior design, focused on the transition between the Founders Lobby and the auditorium. While renovation projects remain – the backstage, and the final hanging of the chandelier in the auditorium - Lynch feels it’s a great time to stop and celebrate what we have.

“We can all take pride in The Music Hall,” Lynch continues, “it’s an American Treasure and one of the oldest sites in the United States that has seen an amazing parade of artists on its stage. I remember when Patti LuPone was here, she told us ‘you are a lucky theater in a lucky town’ and I think she was right. With vibrant programming from our curators on stage and screen, and now with so many wonderful donors and craftsmen creating more room to mingle in this elegant, innovative lobby, there truly is magic here. Come experience it – see you at The Music Hall!”

Upper lobby renovation as part of Treasure the Future capital campaign

The upper lobby renovation is the latest step in The Music Hall’s Treasure the Future capital campaign, which will transform The Music Hall into a performing arts center for the 21st century. The next steps for the campaign include the essential updating and modernization of backstage systems, thus securing The Music Hall’s performance capability and safety; upgrading of the Historic Theater’s façade and windows and recreation of the original chandelier and olio curtain; and the establishment of The Music Hall’s first endowment.

According to Gail VanHoy Carolan, Director of Institutional Advancement, “The upper lobby restoration was a result of the anchor gift of the bar from Ben Auger and Auger Building Company. We were then able to leverage several other vendors, like Rockingham Electric, Chinburg Builders, Silver Lining Painters and a host of others to complete this project.  While smaller in scope than some of our other renovation projects, the upper lobby is an incredibly important bridge that prepares you for that step into the theater. The elegance of this space will enhance all that we do and elevates the overall experience of coming to The Music Hall.”

Teams from near and far recreating the space

With this team approach, The Music Hall is following in the footsteps of those who first built and adorned the building.  The theater as experienced today was envisioned and created by many, from near and far.  Shipbuilders stationed at the naval yard, decorative painters from Concord, New Hampshire, gas pipe and heating people from Portsmouth and Exeter, machinists from Boston, Massachusetts, and a chandelier maker from Providence, Rhode Island, all took part in the 1878 construction. This current phase of restoration and renovation of the Historic Theater has been underway since 2003, when it was designated an “American Treasure” by the U.S. Senate, honored in the federal Save America’s Treasures Program overseen by the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In September 2006, the gloriously restored proscenium arch was unveiled. In September 2007 the ceiling dome and interior historic finishes were revealed – work heralded in the press and among patrons and preservationists. The arch and dome projects were awarded a 2008 Preservation Achievement Award by the NH Preservation Alliance.

Architecture, Engineering and Construction information

Design Team: TMS Architects, John Merkle & Nicole Martineau
Interior Design: Diane Hart, Diane Hart Designs
Fine Craftsmanship: Auger Building Company
Site Management: Chinburg Builders
Lumber: Jackson Lumber & Mill Work  
Sheet Rock:  Godin Associates              
Electric: Progressive Electrical Services, Inc.
Structural Engineers: JSN Associates, Jeff Neroki
Structural Framers: DeGrappo Builders, LLC        
Electrical Supply: Consolidated Electrical Distributers
Demolition: Enviro Vantage        
Parking:  TD Bank; Peoples United Bank
Dumpster: Waste Management            
Chandeliers: Rockingham Electric
Rugs: Pars Carpet
Woodworking: Traditional Woodworks; Wilson Woodworking
Painting: Silver Lining Painting
Lobby screens: Audio Video Designs

Music Hall Facilities and Restoration Committee

Ben Auger, Bruce Wilson, Dominique Jackson, Doug Nelson, Eric Chinburg, Geoffrey Clark, Jeff Nawrocki, Joanne Lamprey, John Merkle, Lee Sollenberger, Michael Tucker
Patricia Lynch, Quentin Stockwell