Connecticut Trust For Historic Preservation

Historic Greenwich, CT Outdoor Theater to be Reinstalled at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY


The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation

Daniel Mackay, Executive Director

203-562-6312; 475-355-5351 (cell)

Historic Greenwich, CT Outdoor Theater to be Reinstalled at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY

Greenwich—The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation has been instrumental in finding a new home for the State Register-listed O’Neil Theater. Architect Horton O’Neil designed and built his modern interpretation of a Grecian outdoor theater, consisting of more than 2,500 slabs of marble on his Cos Cob estate in 1934. O’Neil and his wife Madelyn Phillips O'Neil, a dancer, presented programs on site through the 1960s until neighbors objected to the crowds and traffic they attracted. When the O’Neil property was recently purchased for redevelopment, neighbors learned that the theater was to be removed and components repurposed, and called upon the Connecticut Trust to facilitate a collaborative effort involving the new property owners, contractor Frank DeLuca of Coastal Construction Group and local residents to identify a new location and use for the theater within the contractor’s tight time frame.

“In recent decades, the O’Neil Theater had become a largely forgotten gem in the Greenwich landscape,” noted Daniel Mackay, Executive Director of the Connecticut Trust. “While the Trust is pleased to have provided expertise and encouragement to facilitate this save, it would not have been possible to pursue the relocation and reuse of this structure without the sincere cooperation of the landowners, contractors and the deep generosity of a donor.” 

An anonymous friend of the O’Neil Family whom is also a long-time Cos Cob resident and Sarah Lawrence College alumna, offered the O’Neil Theater to the College for reuse on their Bronx, NY campus. Upon learning of the College’s interest, the Connecticut Trust solicited the assistance of the A. Ottavino Company in Ozone Park, NY, a firm widely experienced in masonry preservation, to determine the feasibility, costs and timeframe for deconstruction and relocation. Subsequently the Sarah Lawrence alumna offered to underwrite those costs and the Connecticut Trust assisted development of terms for a three-way agreement between the alumna, property owner and college to donate and repurpose this unique gift.

Work has commenced to document and remove the theater, with a deadline of March 31st. The project will salvage approximately 80% of the original theater for reinstallation at Sarah Lawrence College. Remaining components of the theater will be reused on site.

“The deconstruction, conservation and reinstallation of this unique historic resource was done without invoking a demolition delay and under great time pressure,” noted Mackay. “I am thankful that among our highly capable staff, Wes Haynes is Stamford-based and able to engage preservation challenges so effectively in southwestern Connecticut.”