Frequently Asked Questions
Looming large as the cornerstone in Medina’s Downtown Historic District, Bent’s Opera House routinely inspires curiosity. ORG is often asked many questions about Bent’s and the restoration project. Here are a few that are most frequently asked:
What makes this site significant? Bent’s Opera House is a contributing structure in Medina’s Downtown Historic District. The district is on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places. Bent’s Opera House is one of the oldest surviving theaters in the entire nation, having been built at the height of the U.S. Civil War. From 1865 to the early 1920‘s it was the cultural center of the Medina area. Its construction is of native Medina Sandstone, and in that respect, shares a heritage with places like Buckingham Palace in London, the H. H. Richardson Towers, St. Louis Church and St. Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo, and countless other architectural masterpieces worldwide.
Who were some of the historic figures who appeared at Bent’s? Among the many notables who appeared at Bent’s were Buffalo Bill Cody, violinists Remenyi and Camilla Urso, explorer/journalist George Kennan, German tenor Ludwig Hess, Hollywood actors J. D. MacLean, Harry D. Carey, orators/lecturers Rev. E. H. Chapin, John B. Finch, Theodore Tilton, John B. Gough, Academy Award winning screenwriter Edwin J. Burke, and William Randolph Hearst.
How will the building be used once the restoration is completed? ORG’s vision is to re-use the facility as a viable, regional, multi-purpose 21st century commercial, entertainment, culinary and agri-tourism destination. ORG is developing a business plan that will see the entire facility– basement to third floor– thriving in a synergistic destination. Not only will it be a hub within historic downtown, but a regional tourism terminus.
What will the building look like when it is finished? The exterior of building will be restored to appear much as it did in the latter half of the 19th century in accordance with the standards set by the New York State Office of Historic Preservation. The street-level façade will be restored with a cast iron storefront along the the entire length of the building– a configuration that has not been seen since circa 1930.
Is Bent’s Opera House currently on the tax rolls? Only the portions of the building that are currently housing a commercial for-profit enterprise are taxable. As more portions of the building are leased to a for-profit enterprise, those areas of the building will be added to the tax rolls. The goal is to return the entire renovated building– basement to third floor- back on the tax rolls; a circumstance that has not existed in that structure for many decades. The Orleans Renaissance Group, Inc. can be credited with literally saving the structure by completing the extensive recent façade stabilization project. Without it, the likelihood of a catastrophic failure could have seen the building demolished with no future and no tax revenue at all.
Will I be able to host an event at the opera house when it has been completed? Yes! Bent’s Opera House will be able to afford the public a venue unlike any other in Western New York! The third floor performance space will be able to host a variety of events from weddings to conferences to dinner dances as well as concert events. With a high-end restaurant on the second floor, hosting and catering an upscale event at Bent’s Opera House will be effortless.
Can I host an event “in the rough” in the opera house now? Unfortunately, no. The site is in need of major renovation and construction, and as such is not suitable for a public gathering other than a tour. We do not have a Certificate of Occupancy that would allow us to do anything beyond that at this time.
Can I tour the structure? Tours are available by appointment, subject to accessibility due to construction and availability of a tour docent. Tours are also often scheduled in conjunction with public community events such as The Annual Civil War Initiative, Christmas in Medina, etc. See our “Contact” page for more information.
How will the project restoration be funded? Funds allowing ORG to advance initial phases of the project have come largely from private donations and preservation organizations. However the costs to complete this project are considerable and will require significant additional funding. Private investment, such as the use of historic tax credits, will be utilized.