The first theater in Albany

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Joel Munsell wrote that the first building in Albany built for the purposes of a theater was a 56 by 110 foot brick building begun in 1811 in Green Street, near Hamilton. The first performance was by “John Bernard, and an excellent company, 18th Jan., 1813, with The West Indian and Fortune’s Frolic.” John Bernard was described as “decidedly the best low comedian that ever appeared in Albany,” a phrase that had a very different meaning then. The opening address was by Solomon Southwick, so presumably by this time Albany had overcome its antipathy toward theater. Munsell said the theater did well during the War of 1812, “after which there was a general depression of business, and it remained some time unoccupied.” In June 1818, it was sold to the Baptist society and became a Baptist church until 1851. After a short stint as another church, it was sold to a theatrical company and once again hosted performances in 1852. It changed hands and was auctioned by the sheriff, reopened the next year.

“A great many attempts were afterwards made to carry on the drama successfully at this place, till it finally sank to a very low grade, and was closed in despair. It was in the fall of 1865 converted into a pork packing establishment, immediately after which the rear wall fell down, for the owner a disastrous finale to its inglorious career.”

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