The Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library at Columbia University has acquired a unique archive relating to efforts of theater director Paton Price to construct a "New Theater" designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Hartford, CT.
The archive spans the years 1948 to 1951 and documents Price's relationship with Frank Lloyd Wright through the course of planning the New Theater. The collection consists of letters, telegrams, publicity material, photographs, and a large perspective view of the Theater signed by Wright.
Wright had originally designed a "New Theater" for Woodstock, NY in 1931 that never came to fruition. When Paton Price (1916-1982) wrote to him in early 1948 proposing a new venue in Hartford, CT, the architect took the opportunity to revive his earlier project. Price would fund the construction through his own savings and from donations and loans, and received endorsements from members of the theater community including Kirk Douglas, Helen Hayes, and Henry Fonda.
The New Theater plan was debuted at a party in Hartford on January 25, 1949, hosted by Hartford Times publisher Francis Murphy for Price and Wright. Said Wright at the time, "This theater is the one thing I simply must build before they put me in a box."
The project received opposition from local Hartford residents, and eventually was turned down by the zoning board. Wright and Price remained on friendly terms, and the architect later realized his dream to build a theater in the Kalita Humphreys Theater in Dallas, TX, which opened in 1959.
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