, Salem, MA

February 7, 2014

Our view: A grand restoration

The Salem News

---- — Fans of the arts and architecture on the North Shore have something to cheer in this weekend’s re-opening of the Ames Memorial Hall at Salem YMCA.

Built in 1896 as a concert and lecture hall, the space fell into disrepair after being converted into a gym in the 1970s.

A fundraising campaign led by former Salem State President Nancy Harrington and local businessman David Ives brought in $1.1 million. The hall now has an expanded stage and backstage, a restored balcony and new lighting and sound systems. The building is now handicapped accessible and, for those steamy summer nights, air-conditioned.

The state-of-the-art improvements were accompanied by a respect for the building’s history. Plaster moldings and decorative details were restored rather than replaced, and the marble staircase and original stained-glass windows have been refurbished.

“There was a lot of attention to history. … We restored as much history as we could,” Chris Lovasco, COO at the YMCA of the North Shore told reporter Neil H. Dempsey.

The hall will be home to the Y Theatre Company, which has served 600 to 700 children since its founding in 2008.

“It’s a wonderful space for kids to perform, but also it’s a center for arts for the entire community,” Lovasco said.

The work will be unveiled tonight with a performance by opera star Marquita Lister. Tomorrow, the center will host performances by the Y Theatre Company, the Salem Theatre Company and the Boston Ballet, among others.

It’s a fitting way to celebrate the return to prominence of one of the city’s gems.