Stuart Opera House
The Stuart Opera House was built by George Stuart after his showboat sank in 1869. The Opera House was completed in 1879, just in time for Nelsonville’s boom period. It did not take long for the Opera House to become the town’s cultural centerpiece. The building offered entertainment and held community events. It closed in 1924 and was not reopened until March 8, 1997.
Backstory and Context
Stuart’s Opera House was built by George Stuart. Stuart started a life in show business. He was the owner and operator of a showboat. Stuart’s showboat made its way over the canal system in Ohio. In 1869 the boat sank. Not long after his showboat sank, Stuart began constructing his new opera house.
The new opera house was completed in 1879. It was finished just in time for the beginning of Nelsonville’s boom period. The Nelsonville boom period was a result of the growing rail system in the area which allowed coal to be sent from the area to the industrial north.
It was not long before Stuart’s Opera House became the town’s cultural centerpiece. The building not only served as a place for entertainment but also held community events and gatherings. The Opera House also offered high quality shows. It remained an important part of the Nelsonville community until it was closed in 1924.
After Stuart’s Opera House closed due to audiences’ preference for film and the coal boom ending, the Opera House remained closed until the 1970s. In the 1970s the Hocking Valley Museum of Theatrical History purchased the building. Their goal was to restore it as a working theater and a place of learning. These hopes almost came to an end on March 24, 1980 when the building caught on fire.
Heated debates took place over what should happen to the damaged building. Some believed the building should be torn down while others felt it should be restored from scratch. It was decided that the building would be restored. After a great deal of money and work spent in restoring the Opera House, a grand opening was held on March 8, 1997.
The grand opening was headlined by Jack F. Spell’s performance of Ladies and Gentlemen: Mark Twain. This show had been written by Jack Spell twenty years earlier and was supposed to have been put on at Stuart’s before the fire.
The Stuart’s Opera House has flourished since its reopening. It host community theater performances throughout the year as well as occasional concerts.
"History." Stuart's Opera House: Nelsonville, Ohio. Web. 6 July 2015. .