Exterior shot of the historic Johnson Hall.

Ganneston Construction is proud to announce that our recent renovation of the historic Johnson Hall Opera House in Gardiner, Maine, has been recognized as a Notable Project by the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) in 2023. This prestigious award showcases our commitment to excellence in construction and our ability to navigate complex projects while preserving the rich history of the buildings we work on.

Reconstructing A Legacy

The Johnson Hall Opera House was originally constructed in 1864. Since its original construction, it has undergone numerous transformations throughout its 150-year history. From its beginnings as a livery stable to its days as a retail space and eventually — as it stands today — an opera house. This iconic building has been a significant feature of Gardiner’s Historic District. 

A Project of Historic Proportions

Our team at Ganneston Construction was tasked with renovating the three-story brick Italianate building while adhering to the strict historic standards set forth by the National Park Service, Maine Historical Preservation Commission, and Gardiner Historical Society.

The project encompassed 13,500 square feet of exterior and interior renovations across all three floors, including the installation of a new balcony. One of the unique challenges we faced was the buildup of partial layers of architectural elements and decorative finishes, each representing a significant point in the theater’s history. 

The goal here was clear but intricate: restore and renovate, don’t destroy.

Our team carefully navigated these layers to preserve the building’s historical integrity while modernizing it to meet the needs of today’s audiences.

Navigating Roadblocks Along the Way

Despite a two-year delay due to funding challenges and escalating construction costs during the COVID-19 pandemic, our team remained dedicated to the project’s success. We obtained a permit to perform demolition while awaiting National Park Service approvals and proactively purchased critical materials and equipment to mitigate the impact of inflation and availability issues. Our strategic approach allowed us to meet the completion deadline and secure the necessary historical tax credits that funded a significant portion of the project.

Construction worker in a white hat working on the side of a building.

History In the Making

The renovated Johnson Hall Opera House now boasts a 400-seat theater with state-of-the-art sound, lighting, and projection equipment, a gracious lobby and concession area, restrooms, and a green room for performers on the second floor. The ground floor features an expanded foyer and full-service box office, while the lower level houses a renovated 100-seat theater. The entire building is now ADA compliant, with ramps, an elevator, and a stage lift providing access to all floors.

Throughout the pre-construction and construction phases, Ganneston Construction collaborated with over thirty-seven consultants and businesses, creating employment opportunities, generating revenue, and driving economic growth in the region. Our partners in this project — whom we thank and for their partnership along the way — included Developers Collaborative, Archetype Architects, Stone Mountain Sound, Kennebec Savings Bank, and CEI – 30 Federal Street Investments LLC.

The successful renovation of Johnson Hall Opera House not only preserves a piece of Gardiner’s rich history but also positions the venue as a catalyst for artistic excellence and economic opportunity in the Kennebec Valley region. The theater will now serve as a hub for world-class entertainment and professional performing arts education, benefiting the surrounding communities for generations to come.

At Ganneston Construction, we are honored to have played a role in the revitalization of this historic gem. The MEREDA Notable Project Award is a testament to our team’s expertise, dedication, and ability to deliver exceptional results in the face of complex challenges. As we celebrate this achievement, we remain committed to providing our clients with the highest level of craftsmanship, innovation, and service in every project we undertake.

Johnston Hall media mention.

Preserving the Heart and Soul of Our Communities: The Importance of Historic Renovation

At Ganneston Construction, we understand the historic buildings in our communities are more than just bricks and mortar; they are the heart and soul of our towns and cities. These structures, from courthouses and schools to churches and theaters, remind us of our past and the people who built the foundations of our society. 

They give our communities character and serve as a tangible connection to our shared history.

Our Guided Approach

When we take on a historic renovation project, we are not just working to preserve a building; we are preserving a piece of our cultural heritage. We recognize the significance of these properties and the importance of maintaining their integrity for future generations. It is a responsibility we take seriously, and we are proud to play a part in helping to protect and preserve our state’s history.

Historic renovation is not without its challenges, however. The age and condition of these properties often require special considerations and a unique approach. At Ganneston, our team has the experience and expertise to navigate these challenges successfully. We work diligently to match and preserve original materials, maintain the integrity of the original facade, and adhere to historic guidelines and restrictions set forth by local municipalities, Maine Preservation, and the National Park Service.

A Foot In the Past And An Eye On the Future

Our goal is not only to restore these buildings to their former glory but also to adapt them to meet the needs of modern society. Through careful planning and execution, we can repurpose these historic structures — like we did with Johnson Hall Opera House — for new uses while still honoring their past. Whether it’s converting an old school into a community center or transforming a former church into a cultural arts venue, we strive to give these buildings a second life and ensure their relevance for years to come.

At Ganneston, we believe that historic renovation is about more than just preserving the past; it’s about investing in our future. By revitalizing these iconic structures, we are creating opportunities for economic growth, community development, and cultural enrichment. We are helping to build a stronger, more vibrant Northern New England, one project at a time.

Learn More About Our Historic Renovation Services

The Ganneston Promise

As a company, we are committed to excellence in every aspect of our work, from the initial planning stages to the final touches. We take pride in our ability to deliver exceptional results, even in the face of complex challenges. Our team approaches each project with the same level of dedication, craftsmanship, and attention to detail, whether we are working on a small-scale renovation or a large-scale restoration.

In the end, the true value of historic renovation lies in its ability to connect us to our past, enrich our present, and inspire our future. At Ganneston Construction, we are honored to be a part of this process and to contribute to the preservation of our state’s rich history. With each project we undertake, we reaffirm our commitment to excellence, our dedication to our clients, and our passion for the work we do.

If you have a historic property that you are interested in renovating, we invite you to contact us. Let us help you bring your vision to life and create a space that honors the past while embracing the future. Together, we can build a legacy that will endure for generations to come.

How Can We Help Make Your Project A Success?