A $21 million renovation is now underway for the old Kleinhans Concert Hall, a performance venue in Buffalo, New York, designed by father and son architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen in 1939. The performance space is getting an economic boost from the state, New York Governor Kathy Hochhol previously announced that The project will receive $8 million from the FY2023 budget and an additional $1 million in grant funding from the Empire State Development Corporation.
Kleinhans Music Hall, a massive circular building with a drum-like appearance, overlooks a reflecting pool in downtown Buffalo. It opened its doors in 1940 and has been used as a music hall and performance venue ever since. It serves as the main concert and rehearsal stage for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as many other local music and cultural organizations, including the Babel Series of the Just Buffalo Literary Center, the Buffalo Chamber and Music Society, and nearby schools. The complex is named in honor of Mary Seton Kleinhans, wife of the late Edward L. Kleinhans. Upon their death, the couple, who owned a men’s clothing store in Buffalo, requested that their entire property be used to build a music hall. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
“The arts are important to economic growth and community health in New York State, and Kleinhans is a vital cultural force in western New York,” Governor Hochhol said. “For decades, Kleinhans Music Hall, where my family and I have enjoyed countless evenings among the public, has attracted visitors with its reputation as one of the finest concert halls in the world. This project allows us to continue to make Kleinhans a modern, welcoming place for visitors to experience quality entertainment and culture. for decades to come.”
Annually, Kleinhans host approximately 200 events, with a total annual attendance close to 200,000. The hall consists of two performance stages and two reception halls. The main hall holds 2,400 seats, down from the original 2,839 seats after a 2015 renovation, while the smaller space in the Mary Seton Room seats up to 700.
While the exterior and interior are free of trim and windows, the primarily beige shaded design is acoustically sound and allows for an intimate experience in a large space. After more than 80 years of use and partial renovations, the building needs extensive work on the exterior, interior, mechanics and roofing.
Planned work on the exterior includes installing a new roof to replace the existing roof that was installed 40 years ago, replacing the lining on the reflective pool, and replacing old windows. Exterior renovation efforts also require reapplying paint and repair plaster work. Interior repairs include steam boiler upgrades, HVAC systems, fire systems and safety mechanisms. These mechanical improvements will allow for a more environmentally responsible building and save energy and money.
Funding for the cherished building’s renovation will also come from many local sources including the City of Buffalo, Erie County, Society Member John Rivera, and private donations. Of the requested $21 million, $3 million will go to “build an endowment” to Kleinhans Music Hall to support future maintenance and programming.
“As stewards of this remarkable building in partnership with the city, we are delighted that Governor Hochhol has made such an incredible commitment to this important project,” Kleinhans Director Daniel Hart said in a statement. “This support, along with the support of our other partners including the City of Buffalo and Erie County, has quickly transformed this effort from a dream into a reality. Speaking of the Kleinhans Board of Directors, we believe the most important thing we can preserve and enhance so that it can be enjoyed for generations to come. This day represents a true milestone towards this end.”
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