Johnson Hall is a historic theater in Maine built in 1864 on Water Street in downtown Gardiner. It presented live shows, entertainment and movies until 1959, and then was mostly closed for 30 years. The first floor has been renovated into an accessible 117-seat performance space.

Johnson Hall’s vision for the future is to increase opportunities for patrons of all ages. Plans include expanding the number of annual shows from 42 in 2016 to more than 100 within the first three years of operation. This explosive growth will be accomplished by completing the full historic rehabilitation of the upper two floors of Maine’s oldest functioning opera house.

Re-opening the former Opera House theater with expanded seating capacity and will triple and then quintuple the number of patrons passing through the doors.

The Project

The current 117-seat Studio Theater on the ground floor of Johnson Hall is inadequate to meet the mission. After years of building a performing arts organization with a growing audience base, excellent educational programs, strong community partnerships, and a reputation for artistic quality and fiscal responsibility, Johnson Hall has outgrown its current space and is ready to expand and complete renovations to its three-story, two-theater, state-of-the-art performing arts facility.

Rehabilitating the top two floors of Johnson Hall will cost $4.49 million. Of this, $1.54 (35%) will come from federal and state historic tax credits. The remaining $2.9 M (65%) will be funded with private support.

The plan to renovate the theater in the Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center is getting a substantial boost from a local bank that has pledged to help with project financing in a bid to help the city’s downtown.

Kennebec Savings Bank President presents Johmson Hall with a check for $25K. Photo courtesy of Johnson Hall
Kennebec Savings Bank President Andrew Silsby presents Johnson Hall with a check for $25K. Photo courtesy of Johnson Hall

Kennebec Savings Bank is providing a multifaceted package of support for the project. The bank is committing to purchase all the historic tax credits the project has qualified for, and it has put together both construction financing and pledge financing packages and will donate $100,000 to the project’s fundraising campaign.

The Completed Facility Will Include: 

*A 400-seat theater on the 3rd floor, with an upper balcony, raked seating to improve sight lines for all, and state-of-the-art sound, lighting, and projection equipment;
*A gracious lobby and concessions area, restrooms, and a green room/dressing room for performers on the 2nd floor;
*An expanded foyer and full-service box office on the ground floor and ADA-compliant access to all areas of the facility, including an elevator.
When renovations are complete, Johnson Hall will house two fully functional theaters, ensuring much greater flexibility for programming. The ground floor Studio Theater will focus upon family-friendly shows and acts that are best suited for a more intimate setting and will serve as a laboratory for educational and experimental performing arts, as well as for local, top-quality, performances.
The new 400-seat Opera House Theater will accommodate live performances by a wide variety of artists who command a much larger audience. These include nationally prominent performers like Lyle Lovett, the Indigo Girls, Steve Earle and Vince Gill; comedy acts and much more.

Johnson Hall cordially invites you to join this winning team as a volunteer and donor as this historic and timely project gets underway. For further information, please call or email Carrie Arsenault, Campaign Director, at 207-582-7144 or

We here at TownSquare Media Augusta/Waterville wish Johnson Hall nothing but well wishes and good luck as the move forward on this exciting venture.

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