It was out with the old and in with the new at the Dawn Theater this past Saturday.
In an effort to clear the old performance venue for its long-awaited redevelopment, Hillsdale’s Tax Increment Financing Authority auctioned off every old item it could at the Dawn on Nov. 10. About 25 students and Hillsdale residents alike attended the event from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., taking the chance to own a piece of the city’s past.
The funds from the auction will go toward purchasing new audio and video equipment for the newly renovated Dawn, according to TIFA advisor Mary Wolfram.
Senior Jimmy McGrath said he went out of curiosity, and ended up buying a old sign explaining that management reserved the right to throw any customer out for any reason.
“It was neat to be in there, after four years of walking past it and wondering what it looks like on the inside,” he said. “I finally had my questions answered.”
McGrath noted that in a way, the theater is a time capsule for when it closed in 2015: A sign posted on the red-colored wall still informs visitors that theater staff will not serve alcohol to people born before 1994.
Although he said it was fun to explore an old Hillsdale establishment, McGrath also said that it is clear that the Dawn is still in its early stages of development. The building still is unheated, an expensive problem that has confronted TIFA since it acquired it in 2016.
“I started laughing about something, and all of a sudden, I could see my breath,” McGrath said. “So I laughed some more, and a big plume of steam came out of my mouth.”
Brant Cohen ’18, associate at C.L. Real Estate LLC — the company charged with both renovations for the Keefer House and the Dawn Theater — said the auction went off well, managing to sell the Dawn theater’s iconic sign adorning the building’s facade. TIFA needs to remove the sign (along with the theater’s yellow overhang) to restore the building’s original street-facing windows.
Cohen said that auctioning off these items from the Dawn marks an important first step in the restoration of the historic theater.
“It was a way to get rid of the old to make room for the new. The funds raised will go back into the theater to help make improvements,” he said. “We envision live entertainment, receptions, banquets, recitals, movies, weddings, conferences, and more.”
On the whole, Cohen said he hopes the new theater and the restored Keefer House will feed off each in the restoration of downtown Hillsdale.
“Most importantly, the small businesses in town will see an increase in customers because of the visitors drawn in by the Dawn,” he said. “The theater will help bring the visitors here and the Keefer will keep them in town.”