Union County Performing Arts Center

Union County, Rahway, NJ

Originally designed in the classical revival style by New York Architect David M. Oltarsch and opened as a vaudeville theatre in 1928, was earmarked for revitalization as part of the recently established Arts District in the City of Rahway. The theater is consider the “jewel” of the City and vital to its redevelopment.

This historic landmark underwent major renovations and an addition. The entire theater was renovated along with the installation of a new lift for the working antique Wurlitzer pipe organ (originally installed to accompany silent films), so that it can be hidden in the orchestra pit when not in use.

A new air-conditioning system designed within the floor minimizes disruption to the existing interior aesthetics. Additional mechanical features include a system that manufactures ice during non-performance periods which is used for the air-conditioning which significantly reduces mechanical noise during performances. The pre-function area and lobby were also renovated.

The new two story addition, placed behind the main theater, contains new dressing rooms, crossover space, a large rehearsal room and administrative offices. The exterior incorporates concrete masonry products of varying sizes and colors with metal surrounds at the windows. A new loading dock faces the rear of the addition and is obscured from the main front elevation. The roof of the existing building required some structural bracing and a new roof membrane system as well.

The design team collaborated closely with the New Jersey Historic Commission and Historic Trust as their approval was required for the project to ensure all of the historic elements remained intact and that the addition was complimentary to the existing building’s historic character.

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