Sigal Museum, Where History Lives
Easton’s original 1752 survey by William Parsons designated this site as Town Lot No. 171. In 1754, the Penns patented the property to Jacob Meiner. His two-storied stone house and property were transferred numerous times over the next century, often between Easton families with such familiar names as Arndt, Herster, and Mixsell.
In 1872, Edward Abel began building the new Abel Opera House on this site. Abel was one of the finest Victorian opera houses of its day, and offered metropolitan style shows, boasted appearances by such famous stars as Ethel and John Barrymore, E. L. Davenport, and Jenny Lind, and later, silent pictures (1897 – Projectoscope), and “The Jewel” movie theatre (1907-1915) which offered vaudeville shows and an early type of talking movie. Following closure due to fire, the building reopened in 1927 as the 1400-seat Embassy Theater.
In 1957, Arthur P. Sigal purchased, extensively renovated and modernized the building. The upper two floors were removed, and the building was retrofitted for retail use. The Sigal family operated a women’s fashion store and bridal gallery on the property until Helaine Sigal’s retirement in December of 2000.
Northampton County Historical & Genealogical Society purchased the property in 2003 for use as a history museum. In rehabilitating and adaptive reuse of the building, the third floor was replaced and the lower level was finished. During second floor reconstruction, a small section of wall design was uncovered and retained, and is believed to be original wall covering from the days of the Abel Opera House. This portion of wall is on exhibit in the second floor musical arts gallery.
Architectural elements from the Abel Opera House no longer existed, the building having experienced fire and remodeling when it was purchased by the Sigals. The building’s facade and interior are all new construction. The museum design team from architect Spillman Farmer describes today’s HDC-approved building facade: “The revitalized urban space evokes Northampton County history and celebrates its future with a wholly new exterior envelope crafted of locally quarried slate and glass. Slate, a commonplace material deeply connected to the county’s industrial heritage, looks to the past. A multifaceted wall of glass presages its future. The proportions and rhythm of the Facade takes its cues from historical fabric of downtown Easton. The glass facade offers glimpses through the museum while the slate rain screen is coursed and fastened with economy in mind.”
The Sigal Museum offers three Exhibition Halls, a Decorative Arts Gallery, Music Room, Visual Gallery, and the 100-seat John Austen Auditorium. More than 6,000 volumes of county and family history are available in the Jane S. Moyer Library. Community rooms offer space for children’s programs, public gatherings, and rental use for private parties, meetings, and receptions.
The Sigal Museum property tells an interesting history common to the evolution of old downtowns; with its design and function changing with the times: from family home to Opera House to Bridal Salon to history museum.