For the first time in 80 years, Londoners will have a chance to go inside the Alexandra Palace Theater, a masterpiece of Victorian construction that has remained hidden inside the palace for eight decades, according to The Guardian.
Designed to be North London’s answer to the Crystal Palace, the Alexandra Palace was built as a public recreation space and entertainment venue in the 1870s. The current building dates back to 1875—the original, built in 1873, burned down in a fire—and over the course of its history has served as a World War I refugee camp, an internment camp for Germans and Austrians later on in World War I, and the main transmission center for the BBC.
The theater itself was a technological marvel when it opened in the 19th century, and it played host to operas, pantomimes, ballets, and musical performances. The stage machinery allowed actors to disappear and reappear through the floor and fly across the stage. The theater later served as a chapel, a movie theater, a camp hospital during World War I, and prop storage for the BBC’s broadcasting operation during the 1930s. It hasn’t been used for regular performances in more than 80 years.
The restoration, which began in 2016, is designed to be a careful update of the space that makes it safe to use but retains its historic allure. The original floorboards have been taken out and numbered so that they can be put back in exactly the same configuration, and the walls have been painted with a clear coating that preserves their original, now-faded colors. But there will also be several architectural updates to the structure, including a modern seating system and a redesign of the balcony for better views.
The first concert performance in the newly reopened theater, featuring what has only been described as a “major music act,” will be held on December 1, 2018. The theater restoration was paid for in part by a grant from the UK’s national lottery fund of more than $25.9 million, one of the largest grants of its kind ever given to a UK heritage project. It’s just one piece of a larger restoration project for the Palace’s East Wing, much of which has been off-limits to the public for years.
[h/t The Guardian]