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.
In May, 2019, Memorial Hall was renamed The Stissing Center. We celebrated the opening of our doors in late summer 2019 with a Construction Concert Series, featuring a benefit concert with Wynton Marsalis and a Grand Opening Community “Surprise Party” and Ribbon Cutting. With these events, The Stissing Center began to define its place as the center of artistic and cultural life in Pine Plains and Northern Dutchess County.
2020 started off with enthusiastic and exciting promise. Our first full Spring Season was scheduled, and Fall was in the works. Construction and renovation was moving forward according to plan.
Then, in mid-March, just days away from announcing our Spring lineup, COVID changed everything. Like every other arts organization, and like everyone else, we faced uncertainty. Live performances were out. We came up with a Plan B. We created virtual programming, The Chair Series and LIVE! from The Stissing Center! The Stissing Summer Variety Show was created as a virtual fundraiser and premiered on August 29. All of these shows and performances remain available on this site and our YouTube channel.
The Variety Show in particular paints an inspiring portrait of The Stissing Center itself, offering a compelling vision for our future. If you have not already done so, you can enjoy it by clicking here. Please consider making a generous donation on our website. Or by mail, to The Stissing Center, PO Box 1024, Pine Plains, NY 12567.
We are preparing for the celebration to come when we get to the other side of COVID. We continue to raise the funds necessary to complete important renovations and future construction. Our brand new HVAC system and associated electric work is due for completion soon. This means we will be able to provide programming year-round. We are creating a second performance space, The Cellar at the Center, where we’ll be able to host more intimate gatherings, meetings, films, and events. There’s also more to do in the performance space, The Main Stage at the Center. We need full size movie screen and additional lighting, curtains, and other soft goods. There’s more to be done with the century-plus year-old windows.
The tax-deductible gifts you give in response to our virtual offerings provide for these renovations, operations, and administration, and provide stipends for the artists and production people who perform for these shows. Of course we can’t say when we will return to live, in-person shows… but we’re staying well-practiced by producing excellent and diverse entertainments. And, there will be many hybrid productions to come.
There’s still MUCH TO DO. We will be making announcements about new projects early in the new year. Will you hear about them? You will, if you sign up for TSC’s E-Newsletter. Get news about performances, a link to our Video of the Week, and invitations to special events.
With the continued support of the local community, 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. Join us.
Impact. Partner. Create.
The Stissing Center seeks to positively impact our community by partnering with artists, individuals, and organizations to create meaningful programs, events, and opportunities. As a center for diversity, culture, and civic life in a small town, The Stissing Center aims to support local economic revitalization and job creation in Pine Plains and the surrounding Hudson Valley region.