Then and Now.
What is now Hopewell Theater has been re-imagined many times over the past 135 years, with significant interior and exterior design changes. And yet, with each incarnation, the building has remained a place that has always welcomed and/or served the Hopewell community as an arts venue and gathering place.
1880-1939 COLUMBIA HALL
From around 1880-1939, on the grounds of what is now the Theater, stood Columbia Hall, a community center with a lyceum style theater, hosting lectures, performers and films on its second floor. The first floor was used for community group, Fire Department, and Borough Council meetings and to hold elections. (Hopewell Herald, December 2, 1954)
1940 - 50's COLONIAL PLAYHOUSE
In 1939, the owners of the Columbia Hall Association decided to demolish the Hall to make way for a "new modern fireproof ground floor theater." (Hopewell Herald, August 30, 1939) They publicly issued bonds to raise funds for the renovation. (Hopewell Herald, October 4, 1939) This is when the high-peaked Colonial Revival style lobby and cinder block addition that is the main theater were built. The entire newly resurrected building was dedicated to cinema. The building was re-opened in 1940 as a movie theatre called The Colonial Playhouse. The Colonial Playhouse showed movies from the 1940's up through the 1950's. Herbert Laird ran and presented film at both the Columbia and Colonial, from 1924-1951. (Hopewell Herald, May 1, 1940)
1960 - 84 GALLUP POLLING
In the 1960's through 1984, the building was owned by George Gallup, CEO, of the locally-based Gallup polling group. Gallup removed the motion picture equipment, and permanent seating, leveled the floor using wooden platforms over the original tiered cement floor, and used the building to conduct public polling. The public was hosted for polls inside what is now the main theater area, for instance, to test and rate products (Williamson Electric).
1984 - 2014 OFF-BROADSTREET THEATER
In 1984 Gallup leased the building to Bob and Julie Thick to put on theatrical performances and eventually Gallup sold the building to the Thicks. The Thicks further modified the building interior to support the Off-Broadstreet Theater, a dessert theater featuring live theater and children's shows from 1984-2014.
2015 THEATER RENOVATION
In 2015, after purchasing the building from the Thicks, owners Jon Mcconaughy, Liza Moorehouse and Mitchel Skolnick gave the theater a much needed renovation, gutting the interior and replacing the heating system, replacing and expanding the electric to support a state-of-the art sound and lighting system which was also installed, as well as updating the plumbing system -including adding two beautiful and accessible bathrooms on the first floor and a prep kitchen. Owners also expanded theater seating areas by adding a balcony in the theater sanctuary. Thanks to the vision of these owners, the theater was repaired and given renewed life and will continue to be enjoyed by the community, run by Hopewell Theater partners, Sara Scully and Mitchel Skolnick.