its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle
with pale gleams the passion of former days."
Welcome to Historic Opera Houses, a web site and organization dedicated to the dissemination of information
relating to opera houses throughout the Heartland of America. From historic footnotes and anecdotes, to resources available
for restoration, our objective is to become the clearinghouse for every aspect of the revitalization of these historic sites.
"Opera houses were central to American life from the end of the Civil War through the 1920s.
Most towns and cities, from small to large, had at least one opera house. This was the golden age of the opera house,
and it is no coincidence that this period was also the golden age of popular entertainment, fraternities, coal mining, and
railroads. All these aspects of American life converged in the opera house. Little, if any, opera was actually
performed in these building. An opera house was a community entertainment and meeting hall."
(William Faricy Condee, Coal and Culture, 2005)
A view from the gallery at the historic Risingsun Opera House,
in Risingsun, Ohio. On these steps, a young Lillian Gish made her way to the stage for the first time at the age
of 5 years old. Nestled throughout the heartland, history is alive and well.
"The role the opera house
can play in the future is found in its past. The opera house was never used exclusively for theatrical performance.
It was a part of the fabric of the community and was used for anything and everything that a large indoor space could provide
for. The key to saving these treasures, then, is for the community once more to have a stake in the buildings.
If the opera house can again present events that the community deems important, the opera house will survive."
(Coal and Culture)
Opened in August, 1896, the beautifully restored
Great Southern Theater is the last vestige of the grand opera houses that once graced the city of Columbus, Ohio. Today,
it is active and thriving.