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.
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
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.