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So Wise To Save The Lyric

Helen Ubinas

July 11, 2010

Yes, Hartford. This is how you do it.

First, the city made the long overdue decision last week to take down the infamous Butt Ugly building.


And now everything seems to be coming together to save the remaining portion of the historic Lyric Theater.

It took three months, but a fund to help preserve the theater has finally been set up.

(Thank Edison Silva, from Licenses and Inspections, who suggested the fund. And Councilman Luis Cotto, who helped set it up.)

Better still, Silva says the building, while in tough shape, is salvageable.

And the city has set aside $800,000 in capital improvement funds to help it stay that way until a developer with a plan comes forward.

You hear that developers? This is prime real estate with loads of potential. Step right up the city welcomes your ideas.

In case you haven't kept up with the Lyric saga, the Broad Street section of the theater was demolished in March after the city declared it an imminent danger.

Residents were angry. They called city hall. A neighborhood meeting was held. They wanted to stop the demolition.

But it was all too little, too late. And early one Saturday morning, a crowd of disappointed onlookers watched as an excavator tore down the building so many had hoped could be redeveloped.

It was a great loss of an important part of the city's history. But everyone quickly realized that worse would be to lose the Park Street side of the building.

Without it, there'd be a great big gaping hole in the middle of one of Hartford's main strips. A straight shot to the Broad Street Juvenile Detention Center.

And what a message that view would send residents and visitors.

So, Silva suggested the fund, and committed $100.

"I felt it was really important to not only identify a problem, but also a solution,'' Silva said.

That's welcome news to people who've called and written since part of the Lyric came down, including Eldena Houlihan who sent along a donation, which I'll forward to the fund, and a letter full of memories.

"As teenagers, we went with our mothers and older sisters on Tuesdays or Wednesdays because they were "dish" nights. We collected more than one set of dishes for our mom one piece per person, week by week until we had the whole set."

Houlihan was also there on a fateful December night in 1941. "I vividly remember that the curtain closed and the houselights came on. The manager stepped onto the stage to tell us that Pearl Harbor had been bombed, the theater was closing for the day and we should go home to our families."

"The Lyric is emblazoned in my memory! It was such a part of growing up in Hartford."

And if all goes according to plan, it will continue to be.

Donations should be made out to "City of Hartford," with the memo line reading "Lyric Theater Fund," and sent to 550 Main Street, Hartford, CT. 06103.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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