ALBANY, GA (WALB) - An Albany landmark is celebrating a century of life. The Albany Municipal Auditorium was nearly lost to history, but the community rallied, the city saved it, and the beautiful building continues to be the pulse of culture and entertainment in the heart of the city.
The sound of music has emanated from this iconic old auditorium at the corner of Pine and Jackson for a hundred years. And thanks to Albany architect David Maschke, it looks pretty much the same now as it did when it opened in October 1916. "Actually, it was a huge challenge," Maschke said about his incredible restoration effort.
But Maschke had a great foundation to work with. "Construction these days is not built to last 100 years, but this facility was built to last way beyond 100 years," he said.
The building was abandoned in the early 1970s and fell into disrepair before the city stripped it bare. Maschke said, "All that was left were the outside walls and the interior framing." That was in 1986 when he undertook a painstaking renovation project that took 3 years and 3 months.
He studied the work of the renowned original architect, A. Ten Eyck Brown, and researched the history of the auditorium to get every detail just right. Maschke said he's most proud of "The faithful restoration of both the interior and exterior, [that] re-establish the beauty."
Former Albany Mayor Tommy Coleman said, "It was a good place to play." He should know.. Coleman grew up attending events in the auditorium, and as a teenager, his folk music bands opened for WALB telethons that brought Hollywood stars to Albany. "There have been some remarkable people here over the years," he said.
Coleman was the mayor when the renovated building reopened in 1990 with a concert featuring Ray Charles and the Albany Symphony Orchestra. Coleman said, "The opening of this building was kind of the seed of an idea that we really need to get back on this idea of downtown development issue."
Coleman believes we haven't taken full advantage of the building since. He says it needs to be used even more, but he says it remains a vital part of our community. "I think this is a great symbol both of Albany's past, but also a symbol of what our future could be."
And that future will include a grand old theater on a downtown corner for at least another hundred years.
In addition to all the cultural performances over the years, the Albany Municipal Auditorium has hosted various other events ranging from boxing matches to political debates. Saturday at 7:00 p.m. it will host a centennial celebration including performances by the Freedom Singers, the Georgia Mass Choir, the Albany Symphony Orchestra and more.