An Important Update About Our Renovation

Dear friends,

Although our calendar has been a little quieter over these last weeks the work behind the scenes at Town Hall has never been more intense. Our staff is excitedly planning for the opportunities of a transformed building as both our renovation and the capital campaign approach their finale. However, amid all our energy and optimism, I’m writing with disappointing news regarding construction setbacks.

Our general contractor, Rafn, has encountered new and significant issues with plaster in the Great Hall and on the second floor that will affect the timeline of our reopening. Complications like these are unusual so close to completion, and we’re working with Rafn to understand the problem and its implications for our schedule. While they have yet to propose a new timeline, as of today they’re anticipating a 60-day delay. This team was selected especially for its experience with historic renovations, so we’re relying on their expertise to choose doing the work “right” over doing it “fast.”

All of which means we won’t be able to move back in time for our planned Homecoming festival. So much heart and hustle has gone into booking an outstanding lineup of Town Hall and partner-produced programs—it isn’t possible to simply slide the whole thing over by a month or two. So we’ve decided to move the festival to September, in order to present a lineup that’s as exciting and vibrant as the one we had planned. 

But don’t worry—we won’t be “dark” this whole time. In March we’ll return to hosting events in venues throughout the city. And the project truly is in its homestretch, as any tour of the building will attest. We will reopen in just a few months—we just don’t have an exact date yet—and we’ll start producing programs back home as soon as we have our certificate of occupancy (likely well before the official festival). We’ll ask for your goodwill as we start living into our building’s new spaces, systems, and capacities as we discover the place all over again together. And we’ll ask for your honest feedback to help us fine-tune the new (and familiar) Town Hall experience.

Over nearly 20 years Town Hall has come to mean so many things to this city—to some it’s a nonstop calendar of ideas, creativity, and activism; to others it’s a tool of expression and organization, or even a “feeling” of community, or a link to “old Seattle.” And to our staff, board, and volunteers, it’s an act of hospitality—an invitation to a more informed, engaged and connected life in this city. The building is a monument to (and an instrument of) all this, and more.

Together we’re not just restoring a landmark building—we’re securing Town Hall’s unique role as a people’s hall, for our generation and those to follow. It is only possible with you and through you. It really is your Town Hall—stay close now and you’ll feel it as we all come home together.

– Wier

P.S. As always, we want to hear from you. Please reach out to Missy Miller (Communications Director) if you have any questions or concerns.

It’s What’s On The Inside That Counts…

As the summer heat dies down and the leaves start to fall, we’re seeing our historic renovation come together. During the summer our friends at Rafn Construction focused on strengthening the structure at the attic and roof levels, as well as installing the pathways and infrastructure for the building’s new systems. While we love seeing the progress of the repairs on the building’s exterior—with the restored terra cotta and repaired roof—it’s the interior systems that have us most excited right now.

Structure and Seismic Improvements

Roofing work started in September, which enabled the construction teams to begin performing moisture-sensitive work. They’ve been installing the new elevator and hanging drywall in mechanical shafts and parts of the Forum (previously “The Downstairs”). But as the weather starts changing, it’s time to get the roof and walls closed up, get heat into the building, and start putting in finish materials, such as drywall and plaster.

Closing walls means finalizing all of the systems inside them. Ventilation, hot water radiators, refrigerant-based heating and cooling, AV wiring and power, sprinklers, fire alarms, and performance lighting are just a few of the systems they’ve been installing and upgrading while the walls and ceilings are still open.

The interior of the building may look like a jungle of conduit and scaffolding right now, but closing up the walls marks a major step toward making Town Hall feel like home again. As the rooms start to look like their old selves (and in plenty of cases, their new selves) we will have more and more opportunities to see these state-of-the-art systems at work.

We can’t wait to feel the year-round comfort of the climate control and put the state-of-the-art sound system through its paces—and we want you there with us to experience it all next Spring!

A Space For Us All

We often say that Town Hall is more than just a venue, and this is true in many ways. But our organization wouldn’t be the same without our historic home. For twenty years, our institution’s values have been reinforced by the features of our landmark building. Simultaneously austere and welcoming, the marriage of civic-inspired architecture and community-focused construction combine to create an inviting space where our city comes together. The pillars along the building’s face lend the structure a political severity reminiscent of a government building (no wonder we’re so often confused with City Hall!), while the radiant terra cotta façade seems to manifest the warmth inside this bustling gathering space. There’s nowhere else quite like Town Hall, and we certainly wouldn’t be the same without this building. Anyone who’s been to an event inside our venue can attest—our home helps make us who we are.

Preserving the qualities that define each of our performances spaces is a critical goal of our renovation. It’s a delicate balance to achieve as we outfit the building with upgrades that will allow us to continue hosting our city’s inspired conversations. We’re upgrading the Great Hall, overhauling our Downstairs, and adding a new space on the lobby level, the Reading Room. Between these three performance venues we can accommodate events of every size—from a crowd of nearly a thousand seated shoulder-to-shoulder in the pews, to a cozy circle of a dozen chairs. We’re excited to re-introduce you to these spaces, at once familiar and transformed, when we re-open in February of 2019. But until then, come with us for a look behind the cloak of scaffolding at the three performance spaces coming to life inside Town Hall!

The Great Hall’s character is striking from the moment you enter. The curved oak pews radiate out from an unassuming stage, and on a full night you’ll see nearly 900 people packed into those benches. The voices of every discussion carry all the way up to the vaulted ceilings to mingle around the iconic stained-glass oculus. We’re keen to preserve these elements of the space that are so core to the identity of the Great Hall as a place where communities can gather to speak and be heard. That’s why the first item on our list for the Great Hall is a suite of acoustic upgrades. Our architects at BuildingWorks are working in tandem with master acousticians from Jaffe Holden to create a state-of-the-art acoustic program. A custom-designed acoustic reflector will hang above the stage, tuned specifically to the contours of the room to evenly distribute sounds from the stage to every seat in the house—with or without a microphone. We’re also permanently installing our Hearing Loop system to benefit audience members with T-coil hearing aids, as well as special sound damping materials between the floors of the building to prevent the uproar from a lively “kindie-rock” concert from interrupting a measured science panel just down the stairs. Combine all this with a face-lift of restored crown molding and the addition of cushions to our 98-year-old antique pews and the Great Hall promises to perform well, look sharp and feel comfortable every night—whether it features an international virtuoso, a civic leader, or the screening of a classic film.

While the Great Hall is holding tightly to the qualities that lend the space its characteristic warmth, the Downstairs space is transforming dramatically—so much that you might not recognize the room from one night to the next! Downstairs is becoming the Forum, a completely modular 300-seat space designed to keep up with Town Hall’s fluid calendar. One night the room might be configured as a three-quarter thrust stage for a civic lecture, the next it may become a runway for a queer fashion show, or a corner-round platform for a series of Bushwick jazz performers inspired by a heady science-fiction novel. The beauty of the space’s design is its ability to become the best possible version of itself, re-forming to fit the needs of each event and completely transfiguring the energy each night. Add to that a library and bar flanking the space’s ample 5,000-square feet, and the Forum is tailored to invite the community at large to make this space their own—an ideal complement to the aplomb and applause of the Great Hall.

The newcomer to Town Hall’s performance spaces—the Reading Room—resides between the two on our lobby level. This flexible 90 seat space provides the perfect accompaniment to the thunderous applause of the Great Hall and the mid-sized adaptability of the Forum. Ideal for intimate poetry readings, local policy discussions, and events by grassroots community organizations, the Reading Room embodies the promise that this is your Town Hall: a place where you can stand eye-to-eye with an icon one night, and mobilize your neighbors the next. We encountered this kind of energy on numerous nights during our 2017-18 Inside/Out season, when our calendar included more locally rooted events than ever before. The Reading Room is our way of creating a dedicated home for these discussions in our building—a close-knit environment where curious minds can engage directly with impassioned activists, inspired artists, and groundbreaking scholars from our region and beyond.

This building makes us who we are. Each room in our venue has witnessed decades of community congregation around the inspired ideas that infuse our region, ideas that are the pillars of our institution. We haven’t seen these new spaces yet; they’re still taking shape in a whirlwind of concrete and plaster. But when the tarp drops and the scaffold comes down, we hope you’ll be there with us to bring these new performance spaces to life—to fill them with our collective energy and shape them with the values of our community.

Stay in the Loop; Hear it All

As part of the acoustic upgrades taking place during Town Hall’s renovation, we’re permanently installing the Hearing Loop system in all three of our performance spaces. To give us a better idea of how a Hearing Loop works—as well as how this critical system supports members of our community who experience hearing loss—we turn to Mike James, who serves on Town Hall’s Board of Directors. Mike spoke with Town Hall’s Alexander Eby about his history with hearing loss, and shared all the reasons why he passionately supports the Hearing Loop’s installation.

Town Hall’s platform is built on the idea that everyone deserves to be heard—and for audience members like Mike James, this philosophy has never been more literal. Mike has lived with hearing loss since his late 30’s. Though his hearing aids are sufficient for smaller events, he’s encountered difficulty fully engaging with the lectures and performances he loves when they’re held in larger halls. But Mike is still a frequent visitor to Town Hall’s events, and he’s been able to fully experience our programming thanks to our Hearing Loop system.

“I’m fortunate enough to live right across the street from Town Hall,” Mike explains. He regularly attends Town Hall’s programs, and the Hearing Loop has enabled him to participate on any given night in impassioned community conversations, civic discussions, and science lectures. “The beauty of the Hearing Loop system is that it just…happens. You can sit down in the audience along with everyone else, and the sound from the event is transmitted directly to your hearing aids.”

Hearing Loop systems wirelessly transmit sound through microphones on the stage, transforming hearing aids fitted with telecoil receivers—like the ones Mike wears—into in-the-ear loudspeakers. “It’s the quality of the sound that’s the most significant thing. You’re hearing the program with yourhearing aids, so it’s adjusted specifically for your own levels of hearing loss. You can clearly hear what’s going on onstage, and at the same time you can be a part of the discussions going on around you.”

From his position on Town Hall’s Board of Directors, Mike has enthusiastically supported the permanent installation of the Hearing Loop system in Town Hall’s performance spaces. For other audience members experiencing hearing loss, this could make all the difference in the world. “A lot of people like me gave up on going to the theater or attending lectures because of the difficulty of hearing. That’s really overcome with the loop.”

To support audience members like Mike, we’re permanently outfitting our Great Hall, Downstairs, and the new West Room with their own Hearing Loop systems as part of Town Hall’s historic renovation. Accessibility is core to Town Hall’s design, and the Hearing Loop is a critical part of ensuring that members of our community who experience hearing loss will remain a part of the discussion.

“I was born in England, and I have relatives there. We’ve traveled together throughout Europe, and found that Hearing Loop systems over there are common. At museums, box offices—you name it, all of that is looped.” Town Hall is inspired by this broad accessibility, and we’re excited to be among the first organizations in our region to offer this technology to our community. “The great thing about Town Hall is that they’re one of the first institutions in Seattle to really pioneer this. It’s a tremendously positive change, and a real asset to Town Hall.”

To learn more about the Hearing Loop system, and about all the ways our new acoustic systems will transform Town Hall into a world-class performance hall, visit TownHallSeattle.org/HearItAll

Please considering making a donation to the project here.

Stay in the Loop; Hear it All

As part of the acoustic upgrades taking place during Town Hall’s renovation, we’re permanently installing the Hearing Loop system in all three of our performance spaces. To give us a better idea of how a Hearing Loop works—as well as how this critical system supports members of our community who experience hearing loss—we turn to Mike James, who serves on Town Hall’s Board of Directors. Mike spoke with Town Hall’s Alexander Eby about his history with hearing loss, and shared all the reasons why he passionately supports the Hearing Loop’s installation.

Town Hall’s platform is built on the idea that everyone deserves to be heard—and for audience members like Mike James, this philosophy has never been more literal. Mike has lived with hearing loss since his late 30’s. Though his hearing aids are sufficient for smaller events, he’s encountered difficulty fully engaging with the lectures and performances he loves when they’re held in larger halls. But Mike is still a frequent visitor to Town Hall’s events, and he’s been able to fully experience our programming thanks to our Hearing Loop system.

“I’m fortunate enough to live right across the street from Town Hall,” Mike explains. He regularly attends Town Hall’s programs, and the Hearing Loop has enabled him to participate on any given night in impassioned community conversations, civic discussions, and science lectures. “The beauty of the Hearing Loop system is that it just…happens. You can sit down in the audience along with everyone else, and the sound from the event is transmitted directly to your hearing aids.”

Hearing Loop systems wirelessly transmit sound through microphones on the stage, transforming hearing aids fitted with telecoil receivers—like the ones Mike wears—into in-the-ear loudspeakers. “It’s the quality of the sound that’s the most significant thing. You’re hearing the program with your hearing aids, so it’s adjusted specifically for your own levels of hearing loss. You can clearly hear what’s going on onstage, and at the same time you can be a part of the discussions going on around you.”

From his position on Town Hall’s Board of Directors, Mike has enthusiastically supported the permanent installation of the Hearing Loop system in Town Hall’s performance spaces. For other audience members experiencing hearing loss, this could make all the difference in the world. “A lot of people like me gave up on going to the theater or attending lectures because of the difficulty of hearing. That’s really overcome with the loop.”

To support audience members like Mike, we’re permanently outfitting our Great Hall, Downstairs, and the new West Room with their own Hearing Loop systems as part of Town Hall’s historic renovation. Accessibility is core to Town Hall’s design, and the Hearing Loop is a critical part of ensuring that members of our community who experience hearing loss will remain a part of the discussion.

“I was born in England, and I have relatives there. We’ve traveled together throughout Europe, and found that Hearing Loop systems over there are common. At museums, box offices—you name it, all of that is looped.” Town Hall is inspired by this broad accessibility, and we’re excited to be among the first organizations in our region to offer this technology to our community. “The great thing about Town Hall is that they’re one of the first institutions in Seattle to really pioneer this. It’s a tremendously positive change, and a real asset to Town Hall.”


Please consider making a donation to the project here.

Town Hall Receives Additional $1M in 2018 Supplemental State Capital Budget

Gov. Jay Inslee signs the supplemental state operating budget on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

Governor Inslee recently signed the 2018 Supplemental State Capital Budget, which includes $1 million for the renovation of our historic building. Town Hall is deeply grateful to the Washington state legislature for investing in this iconic building and the community it houses, and we extend particular gratitude to Representative Nicole Macri for her strong initiative and advocacy on our behalf, and to Senator Jamie Pedersen, Senator David Frockt, Representative Steve Tharinger, and Speaker of the House Frank Chopp for their support.

Town Hall Executive Director Wier Harman issued the following statement: “We consider ourselves profoundly fortunate to steward this beautiful century-old building on behalf of the community. Town Hall is far more than a place where stuff happens. It’s a collective resource, a practical piece of our region’s civic and cultural infrastructure. And critically, it’s a space where everyone is welcome—on the stage and in the audience.

The state, along with other donors, recognizes how close we are to the finish line—and when unanticipated expenses arose around seismic stabilization and hazardous materials remediation, we are so grateful to have received the support necessary to finish our project, for the benefit of the whole community.

This investment is a vote of confidence in Town Hall’s work and our ability to continue to grow alongside our region. We are proud to be a part of this community, and we look forward to welcoming our legislators—alongside the entire community—to our grand re-opening in early 2019.”

This new funding is in addition to the $1.52 million awarded to Town Hall through the state’s competitive 2017–19 Building for the Arts grant process. Construction began in August 2017 and is expected to end late 2018 for a grand re-opening early 2019.

Please consider taking a moment to thank our legislators for their advocacy and investment in Town Hall.

Rep. Nicole Macri (District 43)

Sen. Jamie Pederson (District 43)

Sen. David Frockt (District 46)

Rep. Steve Tharinger (District 24)

Rep. Frank Chopp (District 43)

Spring Construction Update

Our friends at Rafn Construction have been using these scaffolds to give the Great Hall a face lift, accessing the ceiling to install new molding and lovingly remove the stained glass windows for restoration offsite. Construction is going well, and we’re thrilled to watch the space transform over the next few months! When the upgrades are installed and the renovation is complete, we’re looking forward to inviting our community to fill the stately oak pews once again, and filling the Great Hall with the voices of our city.

Rafn Construction has also been assisting us with a particular project that we’re excited to share with you first: the installation of our signature acoustic upgrades!

First on our list is a custom-designed acoustic reflector. The wooden construction mimics the shape of a lute, and will deliver fully rounded sound to every seat in the house, so you can hear a pin drop, a single voice, the silence between violin strikes—or the roar of a full orchestra. Town Hall is a one-of-a-kind platform for our region’s homegrown talents and ideas, and this acoustic reflector will ensure that you hear the sounds of our city louder and clearer than ever!

We’re also including a suite of special sound dampening materials to preserve sound fidelity between our performance spaces. Imagine a symphony in the Great Hall, a civic policy discussion in the new West Lounge, and live radio theatre Downstairs—all at the same time. The insulation will ensure that you hear every detail of your program with no interruptions from the others (or the din of traffic from outside). Add in a new bass trap and AV upgrades, and we’re poised to become an even better home for music and culture in Seattle—an even stronger shared resource for artists and audiences alike.

You’ll be hearing more about these acoustic upgrades in the coming weeks, but we wanted you to be the first to know! Stay tuned as we unveil new and exciting details, and stand with us as we ask our community to come together to help fund a world-class performance hall for our homegrown talents.

 

A rendering of the new acoustic reflector.

 

Crooked Yet Strong

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Crooked Yet Strong

Fun Fact: One of the columns above our portico is misaligned (and has been since the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake). Don’t worry, it’s structurally sound, but this unique view atop the temporary scaffolding gives us a rare glimpse of this little quirk.

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The Renovation Continues

If you’ve passed near our historic First Hill home on 8th Ave and Seneca in the last few weeks, you may have seen the scaffolding that’s gone up around Town Hall’s façade. It’s been thrilling to see the bustling activity around our building as the renovation progresses, and after only a few months and a handful of hardhat tours, many of the upgrades are already starting to take shape.

The Great Hall looks particularly expectant with the relocation of many of its iconic features. The stained glass windowpanes, decorative molding, and stately mahogany pews have been transferred into the careful hands of restoration experts.

The unique terra cotta façades are getting a thorough revitalization as well. Pioneer Masonry will spruce up the terra cotta throughout the winter, leaving the building’s exterior newly restored and gleaming while the interior is still under construction through 2018.

The first major addition to the interior came in the form of a reassuringly imposing rebar scaffold to help stabilize the structure against earthquakes. Seismic retrofits are crucial for the longevity of a historic building like Town Hall—which was originally constructed in 1916 from unreinforced masonry. The seismic stabilization system is already being integrated into the building’s new interior, adding a solid foot of robust concrete around a thick steel framework throughout all four corners and secured into the foundation. These rebar frames will be joined by hefty beams integrated into the floors and ceilings throughout the building!

On the lobby level, the walls have been removed from the old staff offices. That space is currently being used by our friends at RAFN construction as a base camp and staging area for their workers, but it will become our newest performance space, the West Lounge. Plus we’ve seen the removal of the previously-unused vomitorium stairway in preparation for our 17 new gender-neutral restrooms.

We look forward to sharing future construction updates with you! If you’re interested in following our progress, we’re curating a blog to keep a running update of the renovation, complete with photos and notes about the latest additions. You can also find the latest photos in our renovation gallery on facebook. We’re excited to keep you informed our building’s transformation as Town Hall becomes a modern home for inspired conversation in Seattle—and remains a landmark for another century!

Moulding Restoration

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Moulding Restoration

The historic moulding in the Great Hall is in terrific shape for its age. A few pieces require some restoration, and those that we’re unable to repair will be fully replicated. Our friends at RAFN construction carefully removed some of the existing plasterwork prior to demolishing the old elevator. Their staff is currently working on stripping the old paint and creating molds from the newly-cleaned pieces. This will allow them to cast new plaster elements to match the original decorative accents. Soon we’ll have newly-cast moulding that’s faithful to the graceful and historic design of the original!

When the elevator was added to the building in February 1960, the construction required some of the existing plasterwork to be cut or removed. With the new mold RAFN is making, they’ll be able to replace the missing or damaged pieces and restore the Great Hall’s plasterwork to the way it looked before the elevator’s installation nearly six decades ago.

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