ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – The Clemens Center is arguably the place to be for your entertainment in the Southern Tier.
The theater is a focal point of the area and a popular attraction for many.
Many people don’t realize that the Clemens Center, is actually a building, built around another building. The Clemens Center Parkway is actually built on top of what used to be State Street. There used to be two rows of buildings on either side of State Street that was raised to make way for a four-lane road.
There is a building, originally built in the 1920’s – that is being protected by this larger building built in the 1970s. The Clemens Center Building is protecting what originally opened as the Kenney Theater on December 21st, 1925.
Back 100 years ago, getting your entertainment fix could be found at the theater.
There were seven between Main Street and Lake Street. The were Colonial, Regent, Majestic, Capital, Mozart (later renamed the strand), Lyceum, and Keeney
Originally built as vaudeville theaters, and then slowly transitioned over into film.
The center has interesting details that have been in the house since the very beginning.
For instance, the Mural at the back of the theater was never painted over, the “Tiffany” lights and firehouse doors.
One of the highlights of the theater was that silent films were accompanied by an organ.
More specifically a three pipe area that played sound effects like train whistles, car horns, horse hooves.
There was an English genius names Robert Hope-Jones (considered the inventor on the Theater Organ) Hope-Jones constructed and placed a fine organ in Park Church, Elmira, New York, erected in memory of Thomas K. Beecher.
He there met Jervis Langdon, treasurer of the Elmira Chamber of Commerce, who secured the industry for his city by organizing a corporation to build exclusively Hope-Jones organs.
The “Hope-Jones Organ Company” was established in February 1907, the year of a financial panic. It failed to secure the capital it sought and was seriously embarrassed throughout its three years’ existence. It built about forty organs, the best known being the one erected in the great auditorium at Ocean Grove, New Jersey.
The patents and plant of the Elmira concern were acquired by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company in April 1910, and Hope-Jones entered its employ, with headquarters at its mammoth factory at North Tonawanda, New York continued to carry on the business under his own name.
For more on the Clemens Center, click here.