The abundance of coal and other earthly minerals brought settlers to Southeast Ohio’s Appalachian region. Railroads, factories and mills also employed workers who sought local entertainment venues. With the new settlers, new towns developed and populations increased. The newcomers expected more than just a basic lifestyle deplete of entertainment and culture. Thus sprung up opera houses throughout these Appalachian towns and actually throughout many small towns across the state.
Opera house sounds like an uppity concert venue for those with refined tastes and cultural inclinations. But the opera houses appealed to the masses as operas were not usually on the concert or entertainment list for these important venues. Vaudeville, traveling minstrels, singers and other entertainers typically performed in these social gathering and entertainment houses. We found 4 beautiful, historic Opera Houses in southeast Ohio that make for an amazing night on the town!
1) Tecumseh Theater, Shawnee — Several towns like Shawnee, for example, had more than one opera house. Many of these opera houses still stand and still provide space for local entertainment. The Tecumseh Theater in Shawnee is slowly being renovated to its past grandeur. Its first floor is open for performances. Tiny Shawnee also boasts the Knights of Labor Opera House, currently not open to the public.
2) Vaudeville Theater, Marietta — The historic theater has been restored and now functions as a movie theatre, concert hall and stage for singers, theatrical groups and musicals. It’s new state of the art equipment hides behind the original fireproof screen, something not to be missed.
4) Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville is another grand opera house that has been restored and hosts a variety of shows throughout the year. Many of these opera houses call for locals to perform in plays and other performances.
I enjoyed watching a current movie in the recently renovated former Vaudeville theater in Marietta. Now called Peoples Bank Theatre, its galley area displays old movie posters found during renovation. How exciting to see an old poster for Gone with the Wind and others for Westerns and other movies of yesteryear.
On your next outing to Southeast Ohio, see if you can find the local opera house and take in a show and step back into time. Admire the architecture and artifacts. Thanks to the early settlers of these towns, its possible to imagine past daily life and see how the necessity for entertainment transcends the ages.