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Grace Road Church buys elegant Lyric Theatre 

The former First Church of Christ, Scientist, at 440 East Avenue.

PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN

The former First Church of Christ, Scientist, at 440 East Avenue.

Rochester Lyric Opera confirmed Thursday that it has completed the sale of the Lyric Theatre to Grace Road Church.

Lyric Opera bought the building at 440 East Ave. for $1.2 million in 2015, with the intention of using the 900-seat auditorium for its own performances and renting it to outside organizations. While the building was indeed a home for opera, as well as by the Rochester International Jazz Festival and the Rochester Fringe Festival, it never reached the levels of use envisioned by Lyric Opera.

The theater, previously the home of First Church of Christ, Scientist, is an architectural marvel that has escaped the notice of many Rochesterians since its opening 100 years ago.

The building was the inspiration for the Eastman Theatre, particularly the Palladium ceiling over the Lyric Theatre auditorium, which is virtually the same as the one in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. The two buildings also share the same red clay-tile roofs and four massive columns at the front of the building.

According to Sue Cotroneo, RLO's founder and managing director, the group will continue to perform at the venue, which Grace Road Church will open to other groups as well.

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Jeff Spevak is WXXI’s Arts & Life editor and reporter. He can be reached at jspevak@wxxi.org.

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