Bridge Theater closed

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The Bridge Theater has seen its final curtain.

And while the show will still go on a week later than scheduled, it will not take place at the self-described “most unique theater in the country.”

Theater manager Dave Mohn announced earlier this week that, due to the most recent New York State Department of Transportation inspection on the bridge that holds the theater above the intersection of Lake Champlain and the Champlain Canal, the theater would be permanently closed.

“This was supposed to be our opening week,” said Mohn. “We had a couple of matinees lined up; one was this Wednesday. Now, this whole week has been canceled out.”

Mohn said the engineering inspection was done in June, and the DOT called him with the news over the weekend.

“Usually, the inspection is done earlier,” said Mohn. “What they are telling us, and this is coming from their engineers, is that it’s in such a state that apparently, they will be closing it.”

DOT Regional Director Mary E. Ivey said the bridge would be shut down immediately.

“As a result of the findings of the recent inspection, it is unfortunate that the bridge can no longer be used for any purpose.”

Mohn said if the reports found that the bridge was not stable enough for the theater, then he is completely behind the DOT’s decision.

“If the bridge is not safe, then we obviously have to move on,” said Mohn. “Our overall view is that, to be a little melodramatic, we’ve had nine glorious years of the Bridge Theater and now is the time we are moving along to the next phase.”

The bridge the theater was built on was constructed in 1911 as an extension of Clinton Street over the Champlain Canal. When the bridge was closed to traffic, a number of ideas were discussed as to how to use the bridge. Eventually, discussions led to the creation of the Bridge Theater, which was built over 100 feet of the bridge and was able to seat 60 people. The theater opened in 2000.

With the theater no longer an option for performances, Mohn said, the plays and cabarets planned for this season will now be held at the Cooke’s Island Recreation and Arts Center, located between the Whitehall Marina and campgrounds. It will now be known as the Bridge Theater at ARC (after the Whitehall Arts and Recreation Commission).

“The focus of our activity from now on is going to be at Cooke’s Island,” said Mohn. “We are in the final stages of completing a new office area there and we will have everything that we need so that the show can go on.”

Mohn said the move comes with mixed emotions.

“On the one hand, you look at this and it is disastrous,” said Mohn. “But on the other hand, the time comes to move along and we’ll make the most of it.”

Mohn said for the time being, the theater will remain on the bridge.

“We intend to keep the structure on the bridge as long as they intend to have the bridge there,” said Mohn. “We feel it should stay there because it has become a sort of trademark to boaters as they enter or leave Whitehall.”

As for future plans, Mohn said that he would not rule out the possibility of selling the theater structure.

“It may sound crazy, but we may just put it out there on eBay that we have a bridge theater for sale,” he said. “If anyone wants a bridge theater, give us a call.”

While shows have been canceled for the Canal Festival Weekend, performances will start at the Cooke’s Island Center with a cabaret on Friday, July 17, and the first performance of “Champlain Onward” on Saturday, July 18.

For more information on the new location for the Bridge Theater at ARC, contact Mohn at 499-2435.

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