There’s More Than Just Drama Stirring in the Strand Center Theatre

So, you know about Proctor’s in Schenectady and the Palace in Albany. In Burlington, there’s the Flynn. But here on the Adirondack Coast, between New York’s Capital Region and Vermont’s Queen City, we’ve got the Strand. Some call it the “crown jewel” of downtown Plattsburgh, because it’s the town’s premier venue for hosting talent. It’s also pretty nice to look at.

The Strand Center Theatre, nestled in the heart of the city, has been a symbol of the region’s arts and culture movement since it was originally built back in 1924 toward the end of the vaudeville era. In true celebrity style, the theatre fell off the grid a few times. Still, throughout the 20th century, the building and its marquee remained, promoting discounted movies in lieu of live performances.

In 2011, lady Strand got a face lift, thanks to some impressive grant funding from New York State and a few tenacious individuals. By “impressive” we mean this nip-and-tuck was estimated at $4 million. Since then, she’s been restored to her former glory – and now, The Strand Center Theatre raises her curtains once again. Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of reasons you should be excited to sit back and enjoy the show.

This venue’s intrigue doesn’t end with its competitive lineup of performances and movie showings. If you pass through the parking lot, right next door to the theatre is the arts center – more formally known as The Strand Center for the Arts. Here, members and non-members will find classes for all ages on subjects like pottery, dance, weaving, music, painting, and more. The arts center also houses galleries exhibiting collections from artists near and far, both professional and novice.

If the classes and exhibits aren’t enough to keep you entertained, the Strand’s ghosts certainly will.

Director of Development Karen Dispo-De Boos has experienced more than a few strange happenings since she started working at the Strand in February, leading her to think there might be some otherworldly visitors lingering around the premises.

For example, at night, she’s seen lights turn on underneath the door of an empty storage room, number 205, on the second floor.

And the elevator in the arts center has been known to take itself for rides, opening and closing on random studio floors with no passengers entering or emerging – none that can be seen, anyway. To top it all off, somewhere in time, the building lost an entire room. No one has been able to find the illusive “Room 208” listed in detail on the inside and outside of the building’s switchbox.

You’re probably thinking, “Is there a chandelier in there somewhere? ‘Cause I’ve seen Phantom and I know how stories about historic theatres end…” Yes, actually, there is a chandelier.

This glimmering Swarovski crystal, “upside-down-cake” apparatus looming magnificently above the auditorium was recreated based solely on a description found in a newspaper article from 1924 summarizing the theatre’s opening night.

But of course the chandelier’s crystals aren’t the only gems in the auditorium. This is also where you'll spy a rare 1924 Wurlitzer Opus 970 organ, one of only 23 in existence.

And perhaps, if visitors listen closely, they’ll hear more than instruments. 

Karen says, when it’s quiet and dark in the theatre, before the curtains go up and the music begins, sitting underneath that grand chandelier, she can hear the tinkling of… is it laughter? Crying? She can’t quite make it out. And before she decides for sure what she’s heard, she shrugs it off and gets back to work.

One thing’s for certain, there’s something mesmerizing here – and it’s not just talent.