Memorial Hall, the original name of our building, was constructed in 1915 and given to the Town of Pine Plains in memory of John McIntyre, his wife Elizabeth Hauver and their children, by their philanthropic granddaughter, Mary Ellen Lapham Saunders who grew up in Pine Plains with her grandparents. For the better part of the 20th century, Pine Plains was defined by the cultural events and happenings at Memorial Hall.
The majestic brick building on Church street stood tall and proud as a symbol of the town’s important place in the region. According to the original certificate of incorporation, Memorial Hall was, among its many uses…
“…to be used for the purpose of lodge meetings, lectures, concerts, banquets, fairs, celebrations, play, entertainments” and “public and private meetings of any kind permitted by law, and for public libraries, reading rooms, gymnasiums and for the filing and storing and keeping of the records and papers and property of the Town of Pine Plains…and for any purposed deemed beneficial for the public.”
It was well used for dances and clambakes, movies, concerts, minstrel shows, theatre, square dances, and even periodically to send soldiers off to war and to receive them home after their service. In 1935 it was remodeled and reopened as “The Pine Plains Theatre”, where it became a first-run movie house showing Hollywood films until the early 1960’s. Sold again in the 1970’s and subdivided for use by a coffee shop, hair salon, laundromat, and offices, the hall again fell into disuse and disrepair in the 1990’s.
More than a century after its construction, and in order to save the building from demolition, Memorial Hall was purchased in 2014 at auction by a group of three local supporters. Their goal was for it to be restored and returned it to its original purpose, as the hub of the regional community and a beacon of cultural vibrance and civic pride. It was donated in 2015 to the recently established Pine Plains Memorial Hall, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Now in 2020, after nearly five years of comprehensive feasibility studies, permitting, designing, cleaning, and renovations, Pine Plains Memorial Hall is nearing the completion of Phase One of its multi-phase construction plan. We could not have done this without the generosity of our donors, sponsors, and local supporters. Thank you all!
In May, 2019, Memorial Hall was renamed The Stissing Center. The newly-named organization celebrated the opening of its doors in late summer 2019 with a Construction Concert Series, featuring a benefit concert with Wynton Marsalis and a Grand Opening “Surprise Party.” With these events, The Stissing Center has begun to define its place as the center of artistic and cultural life in Pine Plains and Northern Dutchess County.
What’s next? Our Spring 2020 season is in the works. And, fundraising and renovations continue: We’re Not Done. In order to provide a full schedule of programming, we must build an addition on the rear of the building to house the HVAC needed for year-round operation. It will also contain a stage elevator with access to all floors of the building, dressing rooms, and additional rear access to and from our parking lot. A community kitchen, green room, and event space will be created on the lower level, and the upper level will be home to workshop and gallery space, classrooms, and non-profit incubator space.
With the continued support of the town government and local community, and our generous donors, sponsors, and patrons, The Stissing Center will be able to achieve its goals of local economic revitalization and job creation while providing space for many of the uses outlined in the original 1915 certificate of incorporation; all in service of the people of Dutchess, Columbia, and Ulster counties and the entire Hudson Valley region.