Connecticut Treasures, formerly a part of the People’s Choice program, features the wealth and diversity of buildings from each of the eight Connecticut counties. The public is invited every year to vote for a favorite building for this state-wide award.
2021 Voting takes place July 19th - July 23rd
In 1930, Lawrence Langner and his wife, Armina Marshall, commissioned Cleo Throckmorton to design a theatre in a 100-year-old cow barn in an apple orchard on the Post Road. Since the Westport Country Playhouse opened in 1931, over 700 plays have been produced there, including 75 that have gone on to be performed for Broadway audiences.
Farewell Mills Gatsch Architects, LLC prepared a Master Plan for improvements to the Westport Country Playhouse that retains the character of the historic theatre. The improvements recommended in the Master Plan address audience and performer comfort and safety, and provide Westport and the greater Fairfield County community with a modern year-round performance space. Specific recommendations included: front-of-house and backstage additions containing updated lobbies, ticketing areas, dressing rooms and workshops; exterior garden spaces for informal gathering; new heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; new stage, sound and lighting equipment; renovations to meet current fire and life safety codes; improved concession facilities and audience seating.Construction on the project commenced in January 2004. The new theater opened on June 3, 2005 for its 75th anniversary season.
The mission of Westport Country Playhouse is to enrich, enlighten, and engage the community through the power of professionally produced theater of the highest caliber and the welcoming experience of the Playhouse campus. The not-for-profit Playhouse provides this experience in multiple ways by offering live theater experiences of the highest quality, under the artistic direction of Mark Lamos; educational and community engagement events to further explore the work on stage; the New Works Initiative, a program dedicated to the discovery, development, and production of new live theatrical works; special performances and programs for students and teachers with extensive curriculum support material; Script in Hand play readings to deepen relationships with audiences and artists; the renowned Woodward Internship Program during the summer months for aspiring theater professionals; Family Festivities presentations to delight young and old alike and to promote reading through live theater; youth performance training through Broadway Method Academy, Westport Country Playhouse’s resident conservatory program; and the beautiful and historic Playhouse campus open for enjoyment and community events year-round. Charity Navigator has recently awarded its top 4-star charity rating to the Playhouse in recognition of its strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency.
The history of The Bushnell is a story of love between a father and a daughter and their mutual love of their hometown of Hartford. Both Horace Bushnell and his daughter, Dotha Bushnell Hillyer, who conceived and built The Bushnell as a permanent tribute to her father, left indelible imprints on the Capitol City. Inspired by a 1912 visit to Springfield's new municipal auditorium, Dotha Bushnell Hillyer developed her own dream for Hartford. She envisioned a world-class performing arts center in downtown Hartford which would both serve as a memorial to her beloved father and as "a gift to the people of Connecticut.... A center for the benefit of arts, science and community activities."
Shortly before the start of the Great Depression, Dotha hired Corbett, Harrison and MacMurray two years before these innovative architects designed Radio City Music Hall. The Georgian Colonial exterior of The Bushnell echoes the greatness of Hartford’s heritage as expressed in two of its signature buildings. Its gold dome mirrors the much larger one atop the exuberant High Victorian Gothic Connecticut State Capitol across the street, while its red brick walls and pillared porticos quote the dignified 1796 Old State House not far away on Main Street.
While the outside of The Bushnell pays homage to the past, the interior is a bold expression of the Art Deco style that was avant-garde in the early 20th century. Decorated in shades of magenta, gold, and gray, the interior walls “carry a distinctive geometric fretwork of Islamic design,” according to a 10th anniversary publication. Overarching the 2,800-seat auditorium is a mural painting with the Muse of Drama at its center by Barry Faulkner, a well-known muralist of the time who worked on cathedrals in the United States, Canada, and Europe as well as the Cunard Building in New York City.
At its diamond jubilee, The Bushnell, rechristened the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in 2001 with the addition of the 900-seat Belding Theater. Today, the expanded Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts remains Hartford’s main venue for concerts and can also serve as a public auditorium.
The Warner Theater was designed by renowned New York theater architect Thomas Lamb and was completed in 1931 as part of the Warner Brothers chain of movie theaters. The Art Deco movie palace was a Modernist icon of its time, boasting state-of-the-art technology and described as “Connecticut’s Most Beautiful Theater.” The theater changed hands and continued to show films until the 1970s. In the 1980s, a group of residents formed the non-profit Northwest CT Association for the Arts and saved the theater from a planned demolition. Since its reopening as a performance venue in 1983, the Warner Theater has hosted local and world-renowned performers from community theater groups to the Vienna Boys Choir.
The theater underwent a major renovation in 2002 to restore its historical finishes, upgradebuilding infrastructure, and to make the space more accessible for all. The Theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Located in Ivoryton, Connecticut, the Ivoryton Playhouse was built between 1909 & 1911 as a recreation and Union Hall for the employees of the Comstock-Cheney ivory factory. Around 1929, Milton Stiefel, a New York based actor, manager & stage director stumbled upon the unused hall and immediately saw the potential for stage productions. Big city theaters of the day did not have air conditioning and would shut down for the hottest parts of the summer season, putting actors and staff out of work for those months. On June 17th, 1930, the opening show was “Broken Dishes” with Bette Davis in her first ‘Broadway’ role.
The Ivoryton Playhouse became the first self-supporting summer theater in the nation.
Established actors like Henry Hull and Norma Terris played there as its prestige grew, and newcomers like Katharine Hepburn and Cliff Robertson, came along to help the Ivoryton legend.
After the war, a parade of stars including: Marlon Brando, Ethel Waters, Art Carney, Talullah Bankhead, Helen Hayes, Ezio Pinza, Betty Grable, Madge Evans, Vivian Vance, Groucho Marx, June Lockhart, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Don Ameche, played there among many others.
In the ensuing years the building was renovated to its original role as a vital part of the regional community under the direction of Artistic Director of Jacqueline Hubbard.
The Shubert Theatre opened in December 1914 by the Shubert Brothers who opened their first theater in New York City just two years before. The playhouse was named the Sam S. Shubert Theatre by Lee and J.J. Shubert for their brother, the founder of the Shubert organization. Designed by New York architect, Albert Swazey, the theatre was built by the H. E. Murdock construction company of New Haven.
Local newspaper critics enjoyed the 1914 opening show, The Belle of Bond Street, but they were more impressed with the much needed, “beautiful, ultra-modern playhouse... which New Haven people can refer to with justifiable pride.” Their sentiments were echoed by the greatest stars, producers, and writers of the theatre world, who soon elected the Shubert Theatre and New Haven as their favorite place to try out shows before opening them on Broadway. There were many reasons for the choice: the beauty and efficiency of the theatre, the city’s proximity to New York, the avid support that area residents gave to the theatre, and many other bonuses, ranging from Yale University to the marvelous array of shops and restaurants in downtown New Haven.
The Shubert closed in 1976 and was threatened with destruction. Through the efforts of many, over a period of seven years, the theater was saved. The interior of the theater was lovingly and handsomely restored with particular care and attention given to historical accuracy. Ivory, ecru and gold leaf (the original 1914 colors) were used in refurbishing the auditorium. A new lobby was added to accommodate contemporary audiences in a more contemporary architectural idiom.
From its original mission as a Broadway tryout house, the Shubert, New Haven has evolved into a not-for-profit, community resource that serves as the heartbeat of the region’s cultural life. In addition to the Broadway offerings and performances of dance, cabaret, popular music, and family entertainment, the Shubert Theater has comprehensive education and outreach programs, fulfilling its mission to make the best of the performing arts available to the most people.
The Garde Arts Center was created in 1985 as a non-profit performing arts organization to save and reuse the historic Garde Theatre, one of the few remaining historic movie palaces in Connecticut. Built in 1926 during the golden era of motion pictures and vaudeville theatres, the recently restored Moroccan interior of the Garde Theatre, along with the new seats and state-of-the-art stage equipment, provide a very audience-friendly theatre venue in a warm and beautiful atmosphere. Today the Garde is becoming nationally recognized for its unique architecture and multi-faceted programming.
The Garde Arts Center is not just the Garde Theatre. It has become an “arts block” of historic buildings, which are all being transformed into a multi-space center for arts, education, commerce, and community events. The four-story Garde Office Building, which has been one of the most desired professional and commercial buildings in New London for decades, has been transformed into expanded lobbies, box office space, and a 130-seat performance and function hall called the Oasis Room. The three-story Mercer Building provides offices for Garde administration, classrooms for ISAAC, the neighboring charter middle school, and a historic function hall that is slated to become a performance space. The one-story Meridian Building houses commercial and non-profit businesses as well as stage support space. The oldest building on the block is the “cottage” at 345 State Street. Built in 1920 by Connecticut Power, the building currently houses Title IX, an independent satellite book store operated by Bank Square Books.
Opened in December of 1955 the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts is the largest college-based presenting program in New England. Located in the heart of the UCONN Campus the Center is the one of the largest outreach tools to the community second only to the athletic program. The venue has hosted a wide-range of artists from the Boston Symphony Orchestra for their first performance to jazz artist Wynton Marsalis to Judy Collins and the Smothers Brothers. Although completed after the peak of the Art Deco architectural movement the building design remains pure in its direction. The façade is streamlined, bold with linear massing decorated with geometric ornamentation. Inside and out the bold contrasting colors continue the notable style.
Located in Windham County, Eastern Connecticut State University’s Fine Arts Instructional Center features 118,000 square feet of instructional, rehearsal and performance areas. The university welcomes an average of 4,000 undergraduate students annually and this dramatic state-of-the-art facility accommodates its growing need for professional-grade educational and performance spaces.
The three-level Fine Arts Instructional Center addresses multiple programmatic needs and functions including a new art gallery and other studio facilities, in conjunction with the three primary performance spaces. The 400-seat Concert Hall hosts a variety of events but was specifically engineered for acoustically demanding musical performances like unamplified instrumental and choral ensembles. The 250-seat Proscenium Theatre accommodates the university’s theatre performances with its contemporary dark interiors and rounded thrust stage. Both the Concert Hall and the Proscenium Theatre include sophisticated audio and video systems with full capability to record live performances. The easily adaptable 125-seat Studio Theater can be customized to the current needs of the production featuring flexible seating configurations. Each performance stage is linked together by an expansive backstage area with requisite dressing rooms, offices and shops.
Each of these unique venues provides an open and flexible opportunity for the cultural enrichment of ECSU’s students, and also the surrounding Willimantic community. Events such as the WarriorTHON, which raises nearly $10,000 each year for the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, truly creates a profound impact in the health and social welfare of our state.