Restoration of Bent’s Opera House underway in Medina

By on January 6, 2020
The third floor of the Opera House fell into disuse in the 1930s, but is now being brought back to life as an event space.

The third floor of the Opera House fell into disuse in the 1930s, but is now being brought back to life as an event space.

Bent’s Opera House is located in the center of Medina’s historic downtown, steps away from the Erie Canal. This three story, 20,000 square-foot building was initially built in 1865 by Don Carlos Bent. 

Through its early and mid-history, Bent’s third floor Opera House was a hub of social activity and a gathering place for community events. Originally used as a performance venue, Bent’s Opera House hosted the celebrities of its day, including actors, musicians, singers, abolitionists, authors, explorers, politicians, military heroes, entrepreneurs and more. Interestingly, the venue never hosted an actual opera. Names like P.T. Barnum, Buffalo Bill Cody, Frederick Douglass and William Randolph Hearst, drew crowds at Bent’s before it was shuttered as an event space in the 1930s. As motion pictures and other forms of entertainment became popular in the twentieth century, the third floor Opera House fell into disuse. Thereafter, its second and first floors continued to be used as businesses until 2010, when it became completely unoccupied and unused. 

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Bent’s Opera House is one of the oldest surviving theaters in the nation. It was constructed, of Medina Sandstone, at the height of the U.S. Civil War and from 1865 to the early 1920s it was the cultural center of the Medina area. Rich in history and an architectural gem, Bent’s Opera House is one of western New York’s premier preservation projects.

Over the next 12 months, the Civil War-era opera house will be brought back to life. The long-empty building is being transformed into a farm-to-table restaurant, boutique hotel, and event space. The vision is to develop Bent’s Opera House and elevate Medina’s small-town charm where people from across New York State and the northeast will be able to enjoy leisure, entertainment, and cultural activities on par with those in more established areas. 

Bent’s Opera House is more than an iconic place and a bold architectural statement; it is an example of a building that truly adds to the life and vibrancy of a community.

Provided information

Photos by Karen Fien

The historic Bent’s Opera House in downtown Medina is being restored and transformed into a farm-to-table restaurant, boutique hotel, and event space.

The historic Bent’s Opera House in downtown Medina is being restored and transformed into a farm-to-table restaurant, boutique hotel, and event space.

Original woodwork was uncovered during the renovation.

Original woodwork was uncovered during the renovation.

The third floor of the Opera House fell into disuse in the 1930s, but is now being brought back to life as an event space.

The third floor of the Opera House fell into disuse in the 1930s, but is now being brought back to life as an event space.