George B. Post's design was selected by default: due to his pioneering work in crafting metal to simulate stone, his was the only estimate to fall within the board's projected budget. A graduate of the University of New York, Post studied under Richard Morris Hunt in the mid 1800's and soon became a respected architect in New York City. His preference for the Beaux Arts and French Renaissance styles seen in the highly detailed decorations of the building he designed for the Bank and the Music Hall. Construction began on the bank's new property on the corner of State and Second Streets in July 1871.
The building was completed in April 1875, at a final cost of $435,000. The result was a massive six story edifice which dominated the surrounding neighborhood. The bank offices comprised about one-third of the first floor; the remainder was rented to area businesses, including at various times an insurance company, the Troy Chamber of Commerce, a bus terminal and a plumbing company. Above this rose the Music Hall, 106 feet long, 69 feet wide and a towering 61 feet high.
Original granite stairs running the width of the building introduced concert-goers to the ornate grandeur of the hall. (In 1923, structural alterations changed the Second Street main entrance to the way it appears today, accessible to both the Bank and the Music Hall.) Box offices to the left and right preceded a center stairway, which led to the hall itself. Parquet and Dress Circle seats were reached by using the center staircase. Iron staircases on either side guided the way to the upper and lower boxes, the balcony, and the gallery seating areas. Post designed all of the staircases himself and had them constructed by Architectural Iron Works in New York City.
Intricate frescoes, crafted by another New York City firm, G. Garibaldi, decorated the walls about the stage and ceiling. The frescoes above the stage were covered by the addition of a large tracker action organ in October, 1890.
Most of the original frescoing is still visible, except for the ceiling, where the replacement of the chandelier in 1930 also involved repair work on the ceiling frescoes. The first chandelier was remarkable, with 14,000 hand-cut French prisms catching the light of 260 gas burners, ignited by a single traveling gas jet. In October 1923, it was converted to electric, and later replaced by the chandelier which hangs there today. The rest of the lighting was converted in 1929, following an accident in December 1928, when a ballerina's headdress was ignited by a gas lamp in her dressing room. The fire marshal ordered the conversion from gas to electric to avoid further problems. The new frescoes, made in 1930, outlined the rim of the ceiling and exhibited the popular Art Deco styling of the late 1920's in the lettering, featuring the names of great classical composers such as J. S. Bach and Haydn. The chandelier has not been modernized, and still must be raised and lowered by a hand crank.
The organ in the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall is the nation’s largest nineteenth-century concert organ in original condition, and, indeed, it is one of the most distinguished surviving examples of a “golden age” in American organ building. It was built in 1882 by the Yonkers firm of J.S. and C.S. Odell, and was originally installed in a New York mansion belonging to millionaire William Belden. It was subsequently purchased by the Troy Savings Bank and moved to the Music Hall in 1890. Apart from routine maintenance, which ceased several years ago, the instrument has remained essentially untouched since its installation and even most of the leather appears to be original.
The sound of the Music Hall organ is truly magnificent, with a wealth of rich foundation stops and colorful reeds and with powerful pedal registers that literally shake the building. It is a distinguished example of romantic organ building, and it was for precisely these kinds of sounds that the great organ works of Mendelssohn, Franck, Widor, Vierne, and Reger were written. The instrument is also superbly equipped for playing the organ parts in such magnificent orchestral works as the “Organ Symphony” of Saint-Saens, the Strauss Also sprach Zarathustra, Mahler’s second and eighth symphonies and Respighi’s Church Windows.
Among connoisseurs of historic American organs, the Music Hall Instrument is widely considered to be one of the most important; and many prominent organists have expressed the hope that it will be restored.
- Notes on the Organ by Scott Cantrell