The Huntington Theatre was built in 1925 as America’s first nonprofit playhouse. Its proximity to Symphony Hall, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the old Boston Opera House (now the Avenue of the Arts) was intentional- to distinguish it as a major cultural institution and to differentiate it from the commercial playhouses in the Theatre District. Over the years the theatre has served as home to the Henry Jewett Players, a movie house called the Esquire Theatre, and Boston University’s theatre arts program. In 1982, the Huntington Theatre Company, founded by BU, was incorporated as a nonprofit and eventually began operating independently. The Company officially purchased the building in 2016, launching a $110 million capital campaign with big goals.
Completed in 2022, this project successfully renovated, modernized, and expanded the venue by restoring the original 1925 theatre, upgrading the theatre’s technical capabilities, and improving the patron experience. Now fully accessible, even for the performers and crew, the venue has new seating that provides better comfort to all users. Original woodwork, lighting, and details were carefully preserved. A new paint scheme in the auditorium fulfills original design intentions while leaving the audience’s focus on the stage itself; the dome of the theatre was painted gold, highlighting it as a prominent feature and brilliantly contrasting against the Narragansett Green and Dark Pewter colors of the walls. The team restored 45 light fixtures original to the building, including the chandelier above the stage and the vintage star fixtures throughout the theatre and lobby, The ballroom space on the second floor, which had been boarded up and used as a black box theatre, is now the Michael Maso Studio and a functional rehearsal space. This transformational preservation project repositions the Huntington Theatre as an artistic leader along the Avenue of the Arts.
“ ‘All the world’s a stage’ takes on new meaning at the Huntington Theatre where every feature, from the dazzling star lights to the charming carved acorns in the wood trim, steals the spotlight,” says Alison Frazee, Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance. “This project is a perfect blend of preservation and modern upgrades, keeping the curtain up for countless performances to come.”
Huntington Theatre Company
Altieri Sebor Wieber
Auerbach Pollock Friedlander
Building Conservation Associates
Leggat McCall Properties
MacRostie Historic Advisors
Perkins + Will
Shawmut Design & Construction
Robert Silman Associates