Historic theater on Long Island needs a makeover

Talk about a blast from the past. The Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead, Long Island, holds nearly 140 years' worth of history.

Thomas Edison tested the talkie and Will Rogers performed Vaudeville here. Back in the day, limelight lit the theater stage and dry ice stored behind vents cooled the audience.

"You walk in here the first time and it just blows your mind because you don't see things like this everywhere," volunteer Ben Brown said

Locally, it has become a symbol of culture in the Town of Riverhead. Nationally, it is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, it is home to smaller-scale musical acts and performances. But just like anything subject to wear and tear, the building is in need of a makeover—replacing the roof, fixing the floors and updating the sound system.

Volunteers hope to raise more than $1 million to keep writing history.

"We want to bring the theater up to the new century but keep the building and everything inside as it was in 1881," Brown said. "That way the theater is new and modern for equipment and it's the same old feeling when you sit in here."

Funding may also go towards updating the dressing room. Right now it is not the most practical. Performers get ready on the first floor and then go outside and up a flight of steps before taking the stage.

Neighboring businesses are banking on a restoration to preserve the past while paving the way for the future.