Cedarville Opera House
Restoring the past for future generations
Website sponsored By Hearthstone Inn & Suites, Cedarville, Ohio
The original frame Cedarville Opera House was constructed in 1886, only to be destroyed by fire within the year. The architectural plans for the current brick opera house, built in 1888, were brought to Cedarville from England by Cedarville native Whitelaw Reid, noted publisher and U.S. ambassador to England and France. The design of the opera house is a 1/3 scale model of the Royal Albert hall in London. John W. McLean of Cedarville was the builder of the structure.
In the late 1880's, the Pennsylvania Railroad, which ran through Cedarville, made the construction of an opera house a logical step for the growing town. For the next sixty years the Cedarville Opera House became the center of community life, opening its door to minstrel and medicine shows, touring drama groups, orators, political rallies, magic lantern shows, and high school graduations and programs.
Due to the advances in transportation and accessibility to outside entertainment, the opera house closed its doors in 1956 and remained unused except by bats and pigeons.
When it was discovered that one of the main beams was deteriorating and demolition became a possibility, a new interest in the old structure began to emerge. In the early 1980's, concerned citizens banded together, and the Historic Preservation Commission of Cedarville, Incorporated (HPCC) was born. In 1984 the Cedarville Opera House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Through the concerted efforts of the HP and the Cedarville Township Trustees, a levy for the restoration of the opera house was placed on the ballot. With the passage of this levy, restoration began.
In the late 1980's, cleaning and repairing were begun, tons of droppings removed, the deteriorating ceiling beam was reinforced, holes in ceiling repaired, original slate roof restored, and chimney and bell tower repaired.
In October 1994 the HPCC extended an invitation to other interested citizens to form a new organization which would continue restoration and oversee future operations of the Opera House. In January 1995 the new committee organized and was incorporated as the Cedarville Opera House Society, Inc. (COHS). Bylaws were adopted, a Board of Directors and officers elected, and monthly and annual meetings established.
The grand re-opening of the Cedarville Opera House took place on Labor day 1994 with the enactment of Oh, Cedarville, a play written and produced by a member of the Society depicting the history of the town. The play was presented by members of the community and included segments about noted personalities from Cedarville.
Membership in the Cedarville Opera House Society, Inc. began with a charter membership drive for a fee of $5 and resulted in a total of 339 members. A bronze plaque with names of all charter members is displayed in the Opera House.
Annual and lifetime memberships are available to those interested in supporting this ongoing project.
The COHS, a non-profit organization, is financially sustained through proceeds from programs, memberships, and contributions.
The Cedarville Opera House Society envisions the building again becoming a center of activity with high quality performances and performers, reaching audiences far beyond our Miami Valley area. The Society is further committed to the establishing of a museum containing historical artifacts and endeavoring to instill in our young people the importance of knowing and preserving their cultural and historical heritage.
The opera house presents a variety of events to appeal to a wide spectrum of interests. Programs include drama, musicals, comedy, and family film nights. Also, a broad range of music is presented including classical, traditional, pop, country, blue grass, southern gospel, jazz, and even barbershop.
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