The Clemens Center first opened on December 21, 1925 as a 2,500 seat vaudeville and silent film house. Described as “the largest and most magnificent theater between New York and Buffalo,” it contained a Marr and Colton Theatre Organ, and featured extensive murals, opera boxes and chandeliers.
In 1946 when the Chemung River overflowed its banks, the theater was flooded causing extensive damage. It was flooded again in 1972 in the aftermath of Hurricane Agnes that so devastated the region. Soon after, the building was targeted for demolition to accommodate a new highway.
In 1975 the Clemens Center was formed. In 1976, a citizens group raised $750,000 to save the facility. The funds were used to make alterations that reduced the theater’s seating capacity by almost 600 seats and upgraded the stage lighting and audio systems. The Clemens Center presented its first performances in the fall of 1977.
In 1987, the 2,500-square foot Mandeville Hall was added as an intimate, multi-use “black box” theater suitable for drama, recitals, community functions, lectures and seminars.
In 1995, a Facilities Master Plan was created to guide the organization in maintaining and improving this valuable community asset.
By 2008-2009, the Clemens Center had completed Phases 1 and 2 of the Facilities Master Plan. In 2017-18, the Clemens Center celebrated its 40th Anniversary as the region’s premier performing arts center with state-of-the art facilities that allow us to present a vast spectrum of performance experiences in a sparkling clean, comfortable environment that honors our rich architectural legacy. We are looking forward to our 50th Anniversary in 2027.
Click here to read more about the history of the Clemens Center.