January 09, 2019
Restored and reopened in May 2017, White Eagle Hall in the Village is a buzzing venue for live music, performances and private events. From weddings, to wrestling, to ballet and film shoots, Diana Arinovich is in charge of managing it all. It’s a role that changes from day to day – each show comes with its own parameters, artists, equipment and staff.
“Some events are fully seated with a drop screen, some have a banquet style set up with a dance floor and for the sold-out concerts, people are standing, dancing or singing along with their favorite artist,” says Diana.
It’s a dazzling re-entry for a locally beloved building dating back over a century – and with a storied past. First opening its doors in 1910 as a Polish theater and community hall, White Eagle Hall has been a dance hall, a basketball stadium and a Battle of the Bands hotspot for musicians including Frank Infante of Blondie fame.
But the building sat idle until being rediscovered by owners Ben LoPiccolo, Olga Levina and Kevin Kansangra, who realized it could be the perfect home for the Jersey City Theater Center – while doubling as a live performance and community space. The team worked day and night to transform the historic building into a beacon of arts and culture in Jersey City.
“In the renovations we were excited to rediscover two stained glass portraits that had been covered up during World War I to avoid damage. The original coffered tin ceiling had also been hidden by a drop ceiling, but now it’s back in all its glory.”
Before the grand opening, the team met with the community to survey their needs and interests and outfit the building accordingly.
“We work with the Jersey City Theater Center, which is a non-profit, to bring engaging live cultural events to the hall regularly,” says Diana. “During the last mayoral election, we hosted the mayoral debate in partnership with the Jersey City Arts Council. Most recently we hosted the Vogue Ball with the Hudson Pride Center, and it was a wonderful event. We’re always working with other local businesses and organizations to cross promote our events and promote Jersey City as a whole.”
Those efforts have helped draw the crowds from both close to home – and well beyond. Diana estimates that about 80-90% of the audience comes from outside Jersey City, and loves that White Eagle Hall gives newcomers the opportunity to experience Jersey City and what it has to offer.
“They get to enjoy not only our events, but all the other incredible business around us. Many of them come here to see their favorite artists and are exploring Jersey City for the very first time.”
When you visit White Eagle Hall, pay attention to the windows near the right stairwell heading downstairs. Inside you’ll see the original Saint Anthony’s Bingo sign that used to hang on the front of the building. When you walk into the hall, you’ll notice that the wood used on the tops of the bars looks like a floor – that’s because it is! The original basketball floor was kept and repurposed for all three bars and the entire balcony floor.