Footlight Club fundraising for total renovation

The Footlight Club—America’s oldest community theater— is working on raising up to $186,000 to upgrade its fire alarm and safety systems as part of a massive renovation to its Eliot St. home.

Maria Wardwell, Footlight Club board president, told the Gazette that, while the building is safe and has all its safety permits, the overhaul’s goal is to bring the whole building into the 21st century– including updating the foundation, seating and stairs, and installing air conditioning, wheelchair access and new fire safety systems.

The first step in the building’s 10-year renovation is the fire safety systems, she said.

“We have the oldest working dry sprinkler system in the city,” she said, referring to a mostly outdated fire safety system.

“There’s a whole pecking order of upgrades” that need to be done in a certain order, she said. “We want to move forward.”

And while The Footlight Club has no hard deadline from Boston Fire Department (BFD), Wardwell is keen to get things moving.

“The Fire Department will work with us as long as they’re seeing progress,” she said.

In order to stay on track for the projected 10-year renovation plan, the fundraising for this first major upgrade would be completed by this time next year, Wardwell added.

The Footlight Club has been in JP residents’ midst since 1877, operating out of Eliot Hall at 7a Eliot Street. It normally puts on about a half-dozen main-stage plays a year from the 183-year-old building.

Eliot Hall has previously served as a town meeting place and then a parish hall for the nearby Unitarian Church.

The Footlight Club has a fundraising page at

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