sits at the center of Round Lake village, like the axel on
a wheel of circular roads wide enough for just one vehicle
to pass by at a time. The Round Lake Auditorium looms over
the quaint original Victorian homes that closely surround
it, looking like a modest wooden cathedral erected in the
midst of a little girl’s doll houses.
At first the edifice seems unsightly, with the chipped paint
on the building’s exterior, but if you look at it long enough
it’s easy to appreciate its architectural splendor. The high,
pointed roof sits atop walls with hundreds of tiny glass windows,
while a bell tower protrudes among the tree tops. If you were
to scrape at the wood exterior long enough you would reach
the building’s original coat of burgundy trim, 120 years old.
But don’t let the chipped paint fool you: In the past year,
$45,000 has gone into restoring the historic auditorium, which
had major problems with stabilization. Lake resident and auditorium
artistic director Edna Van Duzee received grants and was able
to add iron rods to the roof and wooden beams to stabilize
The jewel of the 300-seat auditorium is a floor-to-ceiling
organ boasting the title of the oldest and largest “three
manual tracker” (that’s organ-speak) in the country, largely
unchanged and still used. The 10-ton instrument is regarded
one of the top 10 organs in the country by the National Historical
Van Duzee’s been working on the maintenance and restoration
of the building since 1965, so this latest effort is nothing
new: “I got a grant from the state for a new roof because
it was leaking and I thought if it leaks on that organ, we’re
With the money left over from the grant, Van Duzee replaced
broken windows with GE Lexan “glass” (it’s actually a very
strong form of plastic), and emerald and gold-stained glass
was added to the windows surrounding the organ.
Just as important as the roof work were the structural problems
with the organ’s setting. The massive instrument was beginning
to tilt backwards, seemingly rising up from the floor, so
Van Duzee led the effort to put a new foundation under the
Volunteer Billy LaRue has taken on the role of fundraiser.
Since December he has put in countless hours by working to
put together a musical benefit this weekend (Saturday, July
9) from scratch, including an all-star lineup of 17 folk and
bluegrass acts, most of whom are performing for free. Proceeds
raised from the concert will go toward painting the exterior
of the building, an estimated $30,000 job.
of the artists are donating their time because they believe
it’s an important cause. A lot of local businesses have helped
out too,” LaRue said. Namely, Midnight Printing of Cohoes
has provided use of their services, while Latham Home Mortgage
Network has donated money. “We need all the help we can get,”
Make no mistake that after exterior painting there is still
more work to be done. Van Duzee plans on painting the interior,
fixing up the concrete floor, and refurbishing the stage by
oiling the natural wood. She also hopes one day to get a new
wind system for the organ. “I think all the renovations will
be complete in my lifetime,” said 84-year-old Van Duzee.
building is now structurally sound, but it will always be
an ongoing process,” says Round Lake Mayor Dixie Lee Sacks.
“The auditorium is the center of the village and a lot of
people are working very hard to restore it.”
In addition to the re-opening concert, the Round Lake Auditorium
will offer many other culturally driven programs this season.
The Village Players have already started rehearsing for their
dinner-theater murder mystery scheduled for the end of this
month. An organ concert series is also scheduled for early
August. “The programs are really what attract people,” Sacks
Punk Circus Freak Out
Big Bang Cirkus, a group of traveling players who do punk-styled
sideshow acts a la Jim Rose, made two appearances in the area
recently. On June 22, they did their thing for a family audience
at Albany’s Free School (pictured). Thing was, their act isn’t
really family-friendly: Neither the shoot-the-BB-pistol-in-the-pants
trick nor the loud punk music accompaniment went over well.
The Cirkus performed in a happier (and more appropriate) venue
the following night (June 23) at King’s Tavern in Saratoga