HUDSON, N.Y. -- It's hard to believe what the inside of the Hudson Opera House looked like just last year.

"The building was in such poor state and had been abandoned for more than 30 years and there were just as many holes where water had been coming into the building," said Gary Schiro, Hudson Opera House executive director.

Built in 1855, it's New York State's oldest surviving theater, and it has been restored to its former glory thanks to an $8.5 million renovation. It's been a 25 year quest and Schiro has been at the helm since 1998.

"People had this idea that we could save this building and return it to public service," said Schiro

Visitors will now be greeted with a gleaming hallway full of historic pictures and posters. 

Upstairs, the historic performance hall, where Frederic Church and Sanford Gifford showed thier paintings and Bret Harte read his poems, is no longer dilapidated. The wainscoting has been restored. The water damaged floor, refinished and the historic details of the stage's proscenium arch has been duplicated thanks to a local artist who donated his time and talent. When you look up you see the stunning oculus.

The flexible performance space can seat 300 people and 50 more when the mezzanine is finished and give a new generation the chance to make their own history.

"The fact that the performers of today will be able to stand on that stage and know that it's the same stage that all these other luminaries have stood upon is meaningful," said Schiro.

The Opera House is celebrating the restoration with a gala on Saturday.