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Poughkeepsie's Trolley Barn Chugs Along

The Crown Jewel of a Dedicated Arts Campus

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The renovated Poughkeepsie Trolley Barn at 489 Main Street.
  • The renovated Poughkeepsie Trolley Barn at 489 Main Street.

Since the announcement last March of $1 million in Restore New York Communities funding for the Poughkeepsie Trolley Barn, the property’s owner, Roy T. Budnik, has been a very busy man. Now, the latest jewel in Poughkeepsie’s cultural crown is open and hosting events—but there’s even more to come.


Budnik is the founder and board member of the Mid Hudson Heritage Center, a community arts and culture nonprofit, which he has charged with running the Trolley Barn as one of four event spaces. The nonprofit, which was founded in 2010, is firmly rooted in the Middle Main heart of downtown. Art Centro, located at 485 Main, is a pottery studio with classes, studios, gallery space and events. Glebe House, at 635 Main, is city-owned and being developed as a history center. Nearby, the PUF (Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory) Studios offer printmaking facilities and classes. At 489 Main Street, the Trolley Barn is poised to take center stage as a huge multi-arts facility. “Phase I is complete. We had an event last night and two today,” Budnik said last week. “The whole building is going to be the centerpiece of a dedicated arts campus.”

Historic photos of the Trolley Barn were used to guide the restoration.
  • Historic photos of the Trolley Barn were used to guide the restoration.

Originally built as a stable for trolley horses in 1874, then remodeled and enlarged when trolleys were electrified in 1894, and rebuilt after a 1906 fire, the Trolley Barn’s overhead doors and large windows “make it easy for people to walk in off the street,” Budnik says. “I hope they will. I’m optimistic. I used to have the one gallery in town, and now they’re opening up all over the place.”

Multiphase Development

Phase l included the build out of the front 3,000 square feet with bathrooms, offices, and gallery/event space, restoration of the facade, and installation of utilities. Phase ll will include finishing out an apartment for use by artists and renovation of the 9,000-square-foot main trolley room and 2,000-square-foot annex. The final phase will be renovation of the basement/lower level to include a small black-box theater, and additional gallery space.

The Trolley Barn pre-renovation.
  • The Trolley Barn pre-renovation.

Past events include an art exhibit entitled “Hudson River of Bricks” last fall, a Reformed Church event, and a teen art show, which was a fundraiser for the newly formed Art Effect. Budnik takes great delight in the range of events and services the MHHC will be empowered to offer.


“Dutchess Outreach and the Hudson Valley Food Bank do their distribution here,” he says, “and the Vassar College ModFest is holding the premiere event here, a performance bringing together chamber music and hip hop. Vassar is giving us a Steinway and offering music lessons. So this is a place for everybody, whether you need food or want to take piano lessons on a Steinway. We’ve got art from Poughkeepsie High students hanging with art from kids from an expensive private school in Millbrook. Quite the spectrum.”

Poster for the "Teen Visions" art exhibit at Trolley Barn.
  • Poster for the "Teen Visions" art exhibit at Trolley Barn.

A community-based studio for textile design and production, a collaboration with staff from Marist College and the Fashion Institute of Technology, will hold its opening celebration on February 15. Staff at Vassar College have proposed a lab at the Trolley Barn for teaching digital imaging/design technologies and applications. According to the City of Poughkeepsie’s current funding application, the Trolley Barn project is a “model of alliance and revival.” The final, total cost of the project is estimated at $5 million. Along with the state funds, some funding has come from the federal NeighborWorks program.

Of the People, For the People

So what’s going on in the 11,000 square foot space? Pretty much whatever Poughkeepsie folks have said they need. Five visioning sessions have been held, bringing in over 150 collaborators to help plan studios, classrooms, and offices for the community, and more input is welcome.


“I’m still open to suggestions,” Budnik says. “I want to make it a venue for everyone. Over the summer, while the front was boarded up, kids would walk by and be so curious and excited that something new was happening on Main Street, and we’d ask what they wanted. One of them yelled, ‘Do something for us!’ and that’s what we intend to do.”


The "Hudson River of Bricks" installation, by Julia Whitney Barnes traces the rivers path to New York City in bricks, a historic product of the region.
  • The "Hudson River of Bricks" installation, by Julia Whitney Barnes traces the rivers path to New York City in bricks, a historic product of the region.


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