Woodstock Opera House
Woodstock Opera House
|Location||119 Van Buren St., Woodstock, Illinois|
|Area||0.1 acres (0.040 ha)|
|NRHP Reference #||74002184|
|Added to NRHP||July 17, 1974|
The Woodstock Opera House is a historical venue for performing arts and receptions located in Woodstock, Illinois. It was designed as a multi-use facility including City Hall, and the police and fire departments by architect Smith Hoag and built by contractor Simon Brink in 1889 for a cost of $25,000. Artists who have performed there include Orson Welles and Paul Newman
The Opera House was built in 1889 to house the library, council room, justice court, fire department and second floor auditorium for the City of Woodstock. The Patti Rosa Company provided the inaugural performance of "Margery Daw" on Thursday, September 4, 1890.
When the traveling circuits disappeared in the early twentieth century, the Opera House became the site for the Chicago-area’s first, however short-lived, summer stock theatre. Produced in 1934 by Roger Hill, headmaster of Woodstock’s Todd School for Boys, the Shakespeare plays starred his young student, Orson Welles. Welles was joined by Michael MacLiammoir and Louise Prussing, who also established international reputation as classical actors.
In 1947, a group of citizens formed and supported the Woodstock Players. For several years the Players, provided acting experience for students graduation from the Goodman School. Now-famous personalities Paul Newman, Tom Bosley, Betsy Palmer, Geraldine Page, Shelley Berman and Lois Nettleton were among the more notable personalities.
In 1968, the Town Square Players was established. They were incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1973. In 1974, the Woodstock Musical Theatre Company was founded and made the Opera House their home. Both companies still perform regular seasons at the Opera House every year.
Erected in 1889, the Opera House was designed and constructed by Elgin-based architect Smith Hoag at a cost of $25,000. The construction materials are mostly of local origin including lime-stone, terra cotta, fieldstone, white brick and sandstone. Its architectural style is a mixture of late Victorian-era tastes combined with Early American, Midwestern, Gothic and even Moorish elements. The interior is modeled after the showboats of the time, with dimensions and decorations that imitate many of those grand floating theatres.
In 1960, the Junior Civic Arts League invested time and effort to battle the increasing deterioration of the auditorium and stage. The Woodstock Fine Arts Association was formed in 1961 with the purpose of restoring the Opera House through the next decade.
In 1972, the Opera House was declared a "landmark" by the city and the Woodstock Opera House Community Center, Inc. was formed to raise funds for a restoration effort. The Opera House was later closed for two years of restoration work. It reopened in February 1977 and was renamed the Woodstock Opera House Community Center. Additional restoration projects were finished over the next twenty years and the Opera House was considered fully restored with the final addition of the front Portico in 1999.
The building continues to be owned and maintained by the City of Woodstock and local residents. It features historic furnishings, stained glass windows, tin ceilings, original woodwork and hand drawn stencil ornamentations.
In 2003, a new annex was completed and added to the Opera House on its adjacent lot. It provides disability access to the stage, a freight elevator, additional back stage areas, offices and the Stage Left Café.
The Woodstock Opera House hosts a variety of programming and events each year including concerts, theatrical plays, dance, visual arts, educational programming, lectures, meetings, receptions, and more. Situated on the historic square in downtown Woodstock, the Opera House is one of the oldest continuously operating theatres in the country.
The Opera House is a fully modernized theatre while retaining its historical character. It features contemporary sound, lighting, stage rigging, heating, air-conditioning and other amenities and is owned and operated by the City of Woodstock.
The venue is featured prominently in the film Groundhog Day (which was filmed primarily in Woodstock) as "The Pennsylvanian Hotel."
- Sharpe, Mrs. Alexander B. (December, 1973). "National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form - Woodstock Opera House". Retrieved April 29, 2010.
- "Woodstock Opera House, History". Retrieved April 29, 2010.
- TownSquare Players, Inc. — Resident Theater Company
- Woodstock Musical Theater Company — Resident Theater Company
- Photographs of Woodstock, Illinois