HCHS hoping old pics shed light on HDM opera house

HCHS hoping old pics shed light on HDM opera house

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Once there were big, booming voices belting out significant musical arias. Once there were gala presentations with happy, laughing people sharing moments at events like weddings, reunions and organizational gatherings.

Once the opera house in Millersburg was a booming staple of Historic Downtown Millersburg, full of life, flavor and energy.

However, that was decades ago, long before the building was a dusty, forgotten part of the HDM landscape, before it was left to rot, before a wrecking ball smashed down its walls and it was no more.

Much like the movie “Titanic” did for that classical vessel that sank in the murky depths of the ocean, the Holmes County Historical Society wants to bring the vision of what was once an HDM staple back to life, at least in a sense.

No, there is no push to rebuild the once alluring opera house, but the HCHS is amid a drive to find people who have either photos or memorabilia from the opera house, who can help repaint what the structure looked like on the inside.

According to Mark Boley, HCHS director, there are photos of the outside of the opera house. Those photos and postcards project a building with loads of structural beauty, a building that stood out among the Millersburg landmarks in the downtown area.

However, little is on record as to the inside of the building, which is why Boley and the members are tossing out a lifeline to anyone who would have used the facility to host an event or would have enjoyed one of the many performances in the building before it was left to rot away and torn down.

“The idea was kicked around last year to create a program on the opera house, but we didn’t feel as though we had enough information to properly present everything the opera house was,” Boley said. “We really would like someone to come forward with some interior pictures that define what it looked like on the inside.”

Boley said as a very young child, he can remember sitting with his father, watching the wrecking ball do its damage when the opera house was torn down. He said there is some argument about the exact year it was razed, some believing that year to be 1954, but he said he would have been 1 year old then and would have no recollection. He said it was instead in 1957.

He said there was even a great deal of controversy as to why they tore it down, with parking area being one key factor. It also was considered being tabbed as condemned but was not because it had no structural issues.

“There was a struggle going on between several factions who didn’t see eye to eye,” Boley said.

Boley said Gene Menuez’s company had the contract to tear the building down. Menuez told Boley he had tons of photos from both inside and outside of the opera house. However, all those photos were destroyed by a house fire.

Thus the search goes on, and Boley and company are calling all hands on deck in search of some long-forgotten photos.

“Someone has to have something,” Boley said.

He said he did receive a pair of colored photos recently from someone who had taken the pictures during the razing of the building. He said those were the first color photos he had ever seen.

He said there has always been such enchanting and passionate talk about the opera house, mainly because it was a beautiful building at one time. He said because so many people discuss the opera house and far more people have no idea as to where it was in Millersburg, the HCHS was inspired to create an evening that focused on the building.

That show will take place May 11, but before that can happen, they need intel, information and photographs that will tell the story of the once-elegant building.

For those unaware, the opera house was located where the Bands Building and adjacent parking lot now stand on the corner of Monroe and Jackson streets.

Also along that square were city offices, the police station and the mayor’s office.

“They had a lot of live events there, so you’d think that there would be family members who took photos or even events like graduations and concerts where people would have photographic evidence of what it looked like,” Boley said. “It had a full stage. They held graduations and boxing events there. It was more than just a movie theater.

“Those types of images and information is going to be the heart of the program. We want to create the stories from that time that few people have ever seen.”

They have the general history, but Boley said the real drawing power comes from the stories that are shared through generations and the pictures that help paint the building during its heyday.

The opera house was built in the 1880s, and 140 years later, it is making a return of sorts. Boley said someone out there has the photographic evidence to shed light on the opera house and bring it back to life for one night.

If anyone has either information or especially photographs of the opera house, they can call Boley at 330-674-6011.