Academy of Music Theatre
Sarah Bernhardt slept here (in her coffin, no less). Harry Houdini had a trapdoor cut into the stage here to allow him to perform his amazing disappearing act here. Mae West bared all here (literally, according to some).
''Here,'' of course, is The Academy of Music Theatre. It's a special place, one with a long tradition of presenting local and international talent, both live onstage and on-screen.
The Academy of Music began as the dream of businessman Edward H. R. Lyman (1819-1899). Lyman was a Northampton native, and although he spent much of his adult life in New York City, he never lost his fondness for the town where he grew up, and he returned to Western Massachusetts after his retirement from his lucrative importing business. He purchased a property on Fort Hill Road and improved it into ''a sumptuous home covering some 17 acres and including an 18-room main house, a gardener's cottage, a laundry, and garages.'' Lyman considered himself a ''trustee'' for his hometown, and he decided that one of the things he should do for the city was ensure that it had a place ''suitable for lectures, concerts, opera, and the drama for the public good.''
To accomplish that lofty goal, he purchased a choice property on the corner of Main and New South Streets and hired the architect William Brocklesby of Hartford to design and oversee construction of a new theatre. Work began in 1889, and the two-story theatre, complete with a Renaissance-style façade and what was then a state-of-the-art performance space, was finished in 1890.
The Academy of Music Theatre made its public