New Spire Arts was founded in 2016 with a catalyzing grant from the Ausherman Family Foundation. The Ausherman Family Foundation had already acquired the former Board of Education headquarters and Art-O-Matic venue at 115 E Church St and the former Cultural Arts Center at 15 W Patrick/15 N Market. Elizabeth Lucas served as the first Creative Director.
In early 2017, New Spire Arts engaged arts consulting firm AMS Planning & Research to help the New Spire Arts team and “kitchen cabinet” of advisors create a strategic plan for the organization and its facilities. AMS guided New Spire Arts in the creation of our mission, vision, and goals. Meanwhile, the first floor of the education building received some basic renovations and updates to prepare for summer programs. In June of 2017, New Spire Studios at 115 E Church St opened its doors to the community for our first workshops and summer classes.
Over the summer of 2017, New Spire Arts contracted Ziger/Snead Architects to design a new performing arts center to be located at 15 W Patrick St. We broke ground on New Spire Stages in January of 2018. The flexible black box theatre and community gathering space opened over MLK Weekend 2019.
Throughout 2017 and 2018 New Spire Arts’ education wing has continued to grow and expand to include new programs and artforms. We have partnered with dozens of local and regional artists, arts organizations, and nonprofits to bring quality programming to people of all ages and abilities.
New Spire Stages
15 W Patrick St has a history that stretches back almost 150 years.
1874-1906: Rohrback’s Grocery
Martin N. Rohrback opened his grocery and liquor store in 1874, adjacent to the City Hotel. Rohrback operated the store until 1895, at which point his youngest son Allen Rohrback became proprietor. Allen operated Rohrback’s until he died at age 32.
1928-1996: McCrory’s 5 & 10 Cent Store
15 W Patrick St spent almost seventy years as McCrory’s 5 & 10¢ Store. McCrory’s had already occupied the store at 15 N Market St for close to twenty years when the corporation built their new store on “the old Rohrback property” in 1928. By 1929, McCrory’s had connected 15 N Market with 15 W Patrick, creating the L-shaped building that stands today.
In the 1950s, McCrory’s added its luncheonette counter, located in what was the stockroom and would eventually become the theatre. The corporation reached its peak in the 1960s with 1300 stores nationwide. In 1992, the chain filed bankruptcy, and the Frederick location closed in 1996.
1998-2013: Frederick Cultural Arts Center
In 1998 the property became the Cultural Arts Center of Frederick County, and was owned and managed by the Frederick Arts Council until 2013. The Cultural Arts Center was a community venue for actors, dancers, musicians, and artists of every discipline where they could work, rehearse, perform, or teach.
Plays, music concerts, and dance performances were held in the 106-seat black box theatre. Rehearsals, lectures, special events, and other activities took place throughout the week in the event hall, and the gallery hosted monthly rotating art exhibits.
The facility was one of the busiest arts spaces in Frederick County, with over thirty different groups regularly utilizing the center every year, including Equinox Dance Company and Maryland Ensemble Theatre.
2018: New Spire Stages
In 2017, New Spire Arts contracted Ziger/Snead Architects to design a new performing arts center located at 15 W Patrick St. New Spire Stages includes a flexible black box theatre that seats up to 250 people and an amphitheatre that will serve as a community gathering space. The venue is slated for completion in 2019. Subscribe to our newsletter to get updates on the construction of New Spire Stages!
New Spire Studios
The building at 115 East Church Street was originally built as the Female High School, the first girls’ school in Frederick, operational from 1889 to 1922. The building was torn down in 1900 as it was unsanitary and unstable. It was rebuilt that year and reopened in 1901 – this time with indoor toilets! In 1914, the top floor was converted from an attic to an auditorium. The building acted as the administrative headquarters for Frederick County Public Schools from 1940 until 2010, when the FCPS built a new, expanded facility further south on East Street. The building hosted Art-O-Matic in 2016.
In the spring of 2017, the first floor of New Spire Studios underwent renovations in advance of its opening for education programs and rentals. See before and after photos below!