Washington Park Playhouse
Built - 1927
In 1609 the great explorer Henry Hudson discovered Albany while he was seeking a shorter route to the Far East. Soon after, Dutch merchants found the area a wonderful place to ship furs to Europe due to the land and its proximity to the Hudson River ending into the Erie Canal. The city then grew steadily becoming the gateway to the Northeast Passage. Albany's industrial growth and history was soon carved out due to its great locale and much of its architecture remains from the 19th to early 20th century and the city's heyday. The state capital city holds in reverie in its capital building which sits atop one of the 7 hills in the city.
Albany's bandstand is named the Washington Park Playhouse located in Washington park that has been in existence since 1806. Initially, the large park was a parade ground, followed by a community cemetery until residents of the city decided that the land was an excellent place to establish a public park. The 81 acre park adopted final plans by local architects Bogart and Cuyler in 1872 who were influenced greatly by landscape designer Frederick Law Olmstead and work got underway to develop the park between 1868 and 1890.
Prior to the building of the bandstand structure in 1927, the original Lake House served as the bandstand until it deteriorated and had to be replaced since it was so well used by the general public and a quite frequented refreshment stand for patrons of the park. The building was surmounted by a bandstand for concerts which were very popular. During the winter season, the building was enclosed, heated and open to the public as a skating house. There were also bathrooms within the building and a large general room for sitting and to buy refreshments.
The replacement in 1927, is a buff-colored brick polychrome terra cotta trimmed edifice which cost $120,000 to build. The architect was J. Russell White and Anthony Marinello, general contractor. It was dedicated on the evening of October 14, 1929 with a large crowd of 5,000 people in attendance with an evening concert that delighted all.
The band shell has hosted thousands of concerts over the years with the last dozen each summer as a stage to present local versions of Broadway musicals which draws large crowds who settle into rows of benches carvedout of the hill directly in front of the large stage.
INFORMATION SUPPLIED BY:
Virgina B. Bowers, Historian
City of Albany