Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Spring is Just 15 Days Away; Will NYS Give its Final OK for Planned Work on the Performing Arts Cntr. at Epworth?

For almost as long as the Epworth Hall Building has been up, one of the concerns was that of its lighting which made reading printed programs, music, and other visuals extremely difficult in the evening hours. Maintenance was always an ongoing expense, so it was easy to put upgrades and replacements on the back burner of the Assembly (becoming the Institute in 1920); and most folks were busy with new construction, both private and Institute-related.

When compared with the very bright lighting at the Silver Lake Institute's huge auditorium in the Park, Epworth Hall's lighting was shockingly dim and has remained that way for well over 100 years. Although there was a modernized Electric Breaker Service that replaced the fuses and dangerous switches years ago, no other changes to the lighting were made at the time of that upgrading. A part of that inaction was a genuine concern for maintaining the originality of the Epworth decor in addition to the significant cost of replacing all of the electrical wiring and lighting.

In recent years we learned that the old auditorium or amphitheater, the first of the buildings initiated by the Chautauqua program in 1888, had lighting more of an afterthought and was modernized more than once during its earliest first years when the advances of oil, gas, and electricity were moving rapidly ahead. The Institute may even have been influenced by the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901 where the Electric Building and other structures were highlighted with a massive number of electric light bulbs making the grounds "nearly as bright as day." The Institute also owned its own electric generator early enough that it appeared on what is believed to be the first map of the Institute grounds.

Less than ten years ago, our State representative in Albany took an interest in the Silver Lake Institute and was invited to come for a tour of the grounds--which he did. A photo of the event was taken but is locked in an old computer awaiting repair. He was impressed with the Institute and the programs we were presenting.

He made us aware of some possible funds available for non-profits whose primary mission was to benefit their area of service. One Trustee and one former Trustee took on the massive task of filling out NYS Grant forms. Because the state forms were not allied with our Institute system, the work became much more complicated than usual and has been responsible for an on-going delay in the State's final ok.

Again this year, we somewhat hold our breath to see if the paperwork is finalized to meet the State standards, so the architect can engage in contracts with contractors who would be able to complete the work by the start of our 2020 season, or for second best, immediately following the season closing. The hard workers of SLI anxiously await word from the State with good news that the project of electrical lighting and wiring can begin, in addition to upgrades on building drainage and basement concerns. Residents and friends await the Epworthian annual Newsletter for 2020 to bring us the good word.

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