The Academy Theatre
Meadville’s Academy Theatre was built in 1885 by Ernest P. Hempstead, a news-paperman by trade. Hempstead presented the “Academy of Music” to the people of Meadville in 1885 as a testament to the great music and opera he knew the city to be capable of presenting. The building was designed by archi-tect J. M. Wood. Wood stated he strove to create a “new and beautiful Temple of Amusement – a credit to the city and an honor to its proprietor.” The Academy Theatre was a popular opera house during the late 1880s.
The theatre continued to blossom and grow over the years; at one time hosting vaudeville shows and the first“talkies” in town. Through the years as audiences expanded and changed, the Academy did too. From the 1950s up through the 1980s, the Academy Theatre was a movie house.
After damage was done to the building due to a fire in the 1980s, the Academy Theatre closed its doors. But, a dedicated group of Meadville citizens refused to let this architectural gem die. It wasn’t long until the Academy Theatre Foundation was formed – a group whose sole purpose was to breathe life back into the venue. Though the structure had seen two other major renovations over the years, one in 1913 and one in 1957, it was not until the major renovation in the early 1990s that the theater was returned to its original glory.
By 1992, the foundation realized their goals and officially reopen the Academy Theatre to the public. Once again, the theatre was providing a wide-range of programming to the community, including theater, concerts, film series, children’s activities, and much more. With almost $1 million in restoration and improvement work completed, the Academy Theatre once again shines like the gem that it is.