The International Tennis Hall of Fame and Salve Regina University are nearing completion of the $4.5 million restoration of the Newport Casino Theater. This National Historic Landmark was built by New York Herald publisher, Gordon Bennett, a wealthy businessman who found himself in need of a place to go after being dismissed by an exclusive Rhode Island country club for a bet gone bad. Architect Stanford White designed the 456-seat auditorium to serve the carriage trade, creating enough space beneath each seat to stow a top hat. In its day, the theater played host to such luminaries as Orson Wells and Vincent Price, and the restoration, under the direction of architect Martha Werenfels, is scheduled to conclude this summer. "The original plaster finishes are mostly intact and the decorative finishes are still in their original state which is amazing since it hasn't been used in almost thirty years," commented Werenfelds. "We plan to fully restore the decorative finishes on the stage wall." Upon completion, Salve Regina University's theater department will assume management and maintenance of the building, and Newport will once again have a performing arts venue.
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