The 25-acre Kenan Center campus includes the Italiante-style Kenan Center House, the Taylor Theatre and Education Building, which occupy two converted carriage houses behind the main house, and the Kenan Center Arena and Annex, which houses a variety of sports and recreation programs, as well as special events, throughout the year.
The Kenan House
Originally built in 1853, the rose brick house at 433 Locust Street was destroyed entirely by fire in 1854 except for two walls. It was rebuilt in 1858 by George W. Rogers who lived in the house until 1893. Mr. and Mrs. Kenan purchased the house in 1912 for $18,500, and Mr. Kenan undertook extensive remodeling and modernizing.
Exterior. Four levels of rooftop culminate in an observatory offering a panoramic view of the landscaped grounds. The home’s exterior is hung and surrounded with cast-iron balconies, and four porches provide winter shelter and summer shade. A three-foot overhang of eaves is edged with wide molding and supported by massive sawn wood brackets.
Interior. Although no longer furnished in the original style, much of the architectural detail of the Kenan House still remains. Today, the front rooms of the house are used for art exhibits, and are a favorite choice for weddings and special occasion receptions. The remaining rooms are used for administrative offices.
The main hallway features the massive woodwork characteristic of the 1850’s, and is distinguished by an 18-inch wide cornice carved and pierced with foliage design. An imported mahogany veneer newel post anchors the gracefully curved staircase.
The front room, or parlor, features seven floor-to-ceiling windows, each deeply recessed and fitted with three-section interior shutters. Rich brass hardware and hinges accent the room’s double mahogany doors, crowned with a fresco of mythological theme.
The Ladies’ Parlor on the first floor, across from the dining room, has been painstakingly restored to its original look in 1913. It includes one of the home’s most ornate fireplaces and a portrait of Alice Pomroy Kenan.
Excerpted from A History of Kenan House, researched and written by Natalie Pitzer for Lockport Showhouse, 1985, sponsored by the Junior Service League and reprinted for The Kenan Showhouse: Revisited 1996.
Kenan Center Arena
The Kenan Arena, situated at the back of the Kenan Center campus, opened its doors in 1968 and featured an ice rink that served the Lockport and eastern Niagara region for seventeen years. Today, the Arena houses an extensive sports and recreation program for youth and adults, including one of the largest indoor youth soccer programs in the region. The facility also provides exhibition space for 100 American Craftsmen as well as a variety of events. In early 2011, the newly renovated Arena Annex was unveiled. The renovation added an additional 5,800 square feet of recreational space. Also located inside the Arena is Revolution Training & Fitness Center.
Taylor Theater and Meeting Room
In 1969, the 153-seat Taylor Theater, the former carriage house of the Kenan estate, raised the curtain on its first production. The restoration and conversion of the carriage house was made possible by two sisters, Nan and Dora Taylor, trustees of the Mary Tucker Hoard and Sarah Tucker Wilson Memorial Fund (under the will of Nellie H. Weaver). The building was designed by New York City architect, Malcolm Holzman. For many years, the theater served as the home to local community theater groups including the NOW Repertory Company based out of Niagara County Community College, and the Four Seasons Players. The theater has also played host to local, national and international performing artists for young audiences. In 2017, The Carriage House Players in partnership with the Kenan Center, launched a series of theater performances and jazz concerts.
Originally the carriage house of a neighboring residence, the building now known as the Education Building, houses the Kenan Center’s Montessori Preschool. It was refurbished and dedicated as the Craft Barn in 1973. In 1988, with the help of BOCES students, an addition was built allowing for expansion of the building to accommodate the original nursery school. The Education Building also provides additional exhibit space in November when the Kenan Arts Council sponsors its annual Holiday Gift Show.
Kenan Center Gardens
The Kenan Center gardens are a legacy of the late William R.Kenan, Jr. who owned the Lockport estate that now serves as the Kenan Center. Educated as a scientist and engineer, Mr. Kenan was also an avid horticulturist, and spent many enjoyable hours in his greenhouse, applying his scientist’s eye for detail to his hobby. He was especially enamored with a rare Night Blooming Cereus and was known to leave the fragile blooms anonymously on neighbors’ doorsteps. Mr. Kenan enjoyed keeping his grounds beautiful, as well, and invested thousands of dollars each year in bedding plants to decorate the extensive grounds.
Today the Kenan House gardens are a feast for the senses all seasons of the year. Brick pathways lead visitors through a vine-covered trellis and under century-old trees to reveal an old stone pond, a fragrant herb garden, a secluded wood deck for sitting and reflecting. In the summer months, a lush perennial garden blooms in a painter’s palette of colors.
Enhancing the gardens with original sculptural works began in 2003 with the acquisition of Exploring Serendipity, a sculpture created for the Art on Wheels project. Since then, more sculptures have been added—several of which serve as “thank you’s” to contributors to the Center’s Annual Appeal Campaigns.