Skip to Main Content

Barber Conable Award, Bent's Opera House

Dec 1, 2022

This award recognizes a large-scale rehabilitation of a historic building in our region, completed in the last two years.

Bent's Opera House on Main Street in the Village of Medina.

After a multi-year renovation, Bent's Opera House (built in 1865 by Don Carlos Bent) located at the corner of Main and West Center Streets in historic downtown Medina, New York made its post renovation debut in 2021.

This 150-year-old cornerstone property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. For decades, it was a prime venue for concerts, shows and public functions in the village, attracting prominent speakers like abolitionist Frederick Douglass and entertainers like P.T. Barnum and "Buffalo Bill" Cody. In the days of telegraph cables, the Opera House staff would receive breaking news and post it on Main Street to keep citizens informed.

After the Opera House closed, the building continued to serve other uses – as a drug store, doctor's office and finally a bank in the 1980s and 90s. The bank ultimately gave the building to the Orleans Renaissance Group, which hoped to restore the theater. Unfortunately, they soon found the structure was in danger of collapsing due to the deterioration of the main beam holding it up. The building was vacated in 2010, at which point its future hung in the balance. The Preservation League of New York State listed Bent's Opera House on its 2012-13 "Seven to Save" listing, and listed historic opera houses generally on its 2018-19 list.

After acquiring the property from Orleans Renaissance Group and beginning a design phase in 2016, Roger Hungerford spearheaded an ambitious and extensive restoration project. Hungerford assembled a skilled team with the preservation expertise to tackle the ambitious project. It included Talis Equity (developer); Le Chase Construction (general contractor); Talis Historic Restoration (window and interior restoration); and Kideney Architects. Preservation Studios brought the project through the historic tax credit process.

Third Floor, Before
Third Floor, After

A three-and-a-half-year restoration has breathed life back into all three floors of the building. The first floor houses the Harvest restaurant where the menu is focused on the farm-to-table theme of "fresh;" the second floor of the building was transformed into a boutique hotel with ten uniquely designed rooms; and last but not least, careful restoration of the original Opera House on the third floor was completed, making it into an elegant performance and event space.

With this restoration, the owners of Bent's Opera House committed to returning a Medina landmark to its historic role as a community gathering space, hosting a variety of events from business meetings and lectures to weddings and swing dancing.

Courtesy of The Landmark Society of Western New York

Second Floor, Before
Second Floor, After