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Chandler Center for the Arts (Chandler Music Hall and Bethany Parish House)
In 1905 the Congregational and Independent Christian churches of Randolph, which faced each other across Main Street between the railroad district and the bridge over the White River, decided to merge as Bethany Church and replace one church with a new parish house. Albert B. Chandler, Randolph native, telecommunications executive, and summer resident, persuaded his church to allow him to build the parish house and a music hall for the village's residents. He also convinced the church to give the commission to Boston architect Ernest N. Boyden, a friend, and to allow Boyden to decide the delicate question of which church would be demolished. According to local lore, Chandler only offered to build the music hall in 1902 after Robert J. Kimball donated ten thousand dollars to build the handsome domed public library in 1903 next door to the Christian church.
The two-story Chandler Music Hall and Bethany Parish House building (on the site of the Christian church) is a hipped-roof entertainment hall that shares one wall with a side-hall parish house. A projecting pedimented central pavilion with twin recessed entrance arches identifies the music hall, and the attached parish house has a single arched entrance. Although Boyden conceived the building in red brick and light stone, probably for reasons of economy, Chandler chose a more modern material, smooth concrete block. Blocks on the ground story of the hall and the basement of the parish house had surfaces finished in imitation of rough-cut stone. The 350-seat hall and the parish house with dining facilities for 100 and a bowling alley in the basement opened in 1907.
For the next quarter century, the hall did a brisk business with stage and screen shows until the Great Depression and World War II led the church to sell it to the town in 1947 for one dollar. It remained closed until the Friends of the Chandler Music Hall began restoration in 1978. Now owned by the Chandler Arts Foundation, the hall is a successful regional performing arts venue and the parish house is an art gallery. Restored to its former glory, the Chandler is a landmark to the distinctive civic spirit of Progressive Era Randolph, which boldly combined a music hall and a parish house.
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