July 25, 2014
By TINA BACHETTI | Hartford Courant
OPENED: Oct. 24, 1877, by William H. Goodspeed, a prominent entrepreneur with a love of the theater.
THE FOUNDER: William Goodspeed was born in 1816, the son of an early settler who operated a general store at Goodspeed's Landing on the Connecticut River. "The Vanderbilt of Connecticut," as William was sometimes called, expanded the family business to include banking, railroading and shipmaking.
DECLINE AND REBIRTH: The five-story Victorian building, built by shipyard carpenters, combined a steamboat passenger terminal, business offices, a general store and a top-floor theater. Dubbed by disapproving locals as "Goodspeed's folly," the theater nevertheless flourished, hosting musicals, vaudeville acts, operettas, and minstrel shows. On occasion, a Broadway show would be brought in by steamboat for a special performance. After Goodspeed's death in 1882, the theater became less active and eventually fell into disrepair and ended up as a state highway storage depot. It was slated for demolition in 1958, but a preservationist group, Goodspeed Musicals, restored the theater in 1963. The theater has been under the direction of Michael Price since 1968. The 2010 season begins in April.
SOURCES: Hartford Courant, Goodspeed.org