The Wait Is Over: Universal Preservation Hall Opens Its Doors In Saratoga

Here's how Saratoga's new all-season venue made it here.

UPH is finally opening after a two-decade journey this February 29, with Grammy winner Rosanne Cash having the honor of a sold-out opening night. (Kate Penn - Proctors Collaborative)

Do you feel it? I do. Saratogians are abuzz about the impending opening of Universal Preservation Hall (UPH), the city’s first year-round performing arts space in more than five decades.

The UPH box office is buzzing, too, with tickets to upcoming events selling steadily, and the grand opening show on February 29, featuring the Grammy-winning Rosanne Cash (daughter of the late Johnny “The Man In Black” Cash) has already sold out. Also on the docket? Chris Botti, jazz/pop trumpeter extraordinaire (and multiple Saratoga Jazz Festival vet); and actress/singer Megan Hilty, the golden Glinda from Broadway’s Wicked and co-star of NBC’s Smash. I’m psyched about Journeyman, the Eric Clapton tribute tour and the Rochmon Record Club’s take on Paul Simon’s Graceland.

Crews installed the restored stained glass windows at UPH last June. (Kate Penn – Proctors Collaborative)

Before the doors swing open, let’s take a look at the biggest milestones in the unbelievable transformation of this historic church and community hall in Downtown Saratoga, where Teddy Roosevelt and Frederick Douglass once delivered fiery speeches, to the Spa City’s latest, greatest arts venue. 

2000: Preservation
When the High Victorian Gothic building was condemned by the city, a group of concerned Saratoga residents jumped in and saved it from the wrecking ball.

2009: Leadership
Teddy Foster, a volunteer with a can-do attitude, took charge of UPH as its new board president. 

2015: Alliance
UPH reached out to Schenectady’s Proctors and subsequently joined the Proctors Collaborative. A campaign to raise funds for a major UPH renovation then kicked off, with Teddy Foster stepping up as its campaign director.

2018: Renovation
Inside and out, from sidewalk to steeple, the building received an expert makeover. A 678-seat theater-in-the-round, with state-of-the-art sound and lighting, emerged in the Great Hall on the second floor. Original balconies and Tiffany-inspired windows were restored. A new entrance was created, an elevator added and the rosy red brick exterior repointed and cleaned.

2020: The Unveiling
Soon, the dazzling new UPH will be revealed to the public. After opening night, 30 shows roll out through May, with summer, fall and winter entertainment to follow. 

Yeah, there’s a lot of buzz in town, and when I eventually enter the Great Hall, I’ll expect to feel some good vibes. Why? Because UPH is yet another Saratoga architectural gem with a glorious past and a brilliant future. Here we go!

UPH: By The Numbers

Breaking down the fascinating fun facts.

60 The furthest possible distance, in feet, UPH patrons will be sitting from the stage
30 The number of shows that have been booked for UPH’s inaugural spring season at press time
10 The total cost, in millions of dollars, of the UPH renovation project
534 The number of individual, corporate, state and foundation donors that helped raise
$7.2 million in the UPH Road to Opening Night Campaign
98 The number of original benches and pews repurposed for the opening of UPH
78 The number of stained-glass windows cleaned, repaired and reinstalled in preparation for the opening of UPH
678 The number of seats in UPH’s theater-in-the-round in its Great Hall
24 The size of the movie screen, in feet, that hangs in UPH’s Great Hall

Karen Bjornland

An award-winning writer, Contributing Editor Karen Bjornland has been contributing to saratoga living for 12 years. Her work has also appeared in Adirondack Life, the Albany Times Union and Schenectady's Daily Gazette, among many other publications. She lives outside of Saratoga Springs in Greenfield Center.


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