Nichols' Opera House

186 Greenwood Avenue,
Bethel, CT 06801

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The Bethel Opera House was built in 1860 by Augustus A. Fisher. It has housed a public hall with hat manufacturing on the ground level, a social hall, a roller skating rink, and a high school gym. It once served as a silent movie theater, the Barnum Theatre. It was known as Fisher’s Hall, then Nichols' Opera House.

During the 1930s and 1940s, it was called Leeja Hall and was used for town meetings as well as a high school gym. It now houses a restaurant, Greenwoods, shops and White Light Studio.

The upstairs portion of the building have about 8 to 10 rooms for rent as a friend of mine has one of these. There are big signs on either side of the facade saying “Opera House”.

In the Danbury/Bethel City Directory, it has the first listing as Nichol’s Opera House showing motion pictures and owned by John F. Nichols who also was a distributor of Nichols' Old Fashion Root Beer, (“The beer with a sparkle”) as well as Nichols' Billiards and Pocket Billiards, located in the same building. It’s currently located at the corner of Greenwood Avenue and Depot Place. Its address was listed as “3 Ctr.” In the 1916 Directory, the address was known as “Depot Place”. The Danbury Library’s directory has a gap between 1919 and 1924 and WCSU’s archives has a gap between 1920-22. The 1924 Directory doesn’t have a listing for it.

Contributed by Dave Bonan

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

shoeshoe14
shoeshoe14 on February 8, 2005 at 2:40 pm

its current use is a restaurant/pub on the ground floor called Greenwoods and the top floor rents rooms.

shoeshoe14
shoeshoe14 on February 11, 2005 at 9:36 pm

The 1919 Danbury/Bethel City Directory has it showing motion pictures and in 1921 there is no longer a theater there.

shoeshoe14
shoeshoe14 on July 8, 2005 at 12:01 pm

Bethel is celebrating their 150th anniversary next week and there’s a whole series of articles in this week’s paper and online. They did mention that this “Opera House” was built in Italian Vernacular and was never “really” an opera house but that it was called one because people were looking for entertainment. Apparently, now it’s known as the Opera House cafe and restaurant. There was a piano player in the middle of the roller rink.

shoeshoe14
shoeshoe14 on January 31, 2007 at 1:42 pm

The usage – Greenwood’s restaurant and bar is located on the bottom right with an outdoor patio. Upstairs, it’s a boarding house, with rents ranging from weekly to monthly.

shoeshoe14
shoeshoe14 on January 31, 2007 at 1:46 pm

An excerpt from the Danbury News-Times in 1973 presented this information, and was printed in “History of Bethel”, 1759-1976, Pp.48-9. (call number 974.69)

This was also known as Nick’s Opera House. It showed silent movies on the 2nd floor and minstrels, vaudeville and community choruses were presented. Former town historian Ed Gallagher played piano to the movies (which cost 10 cents) and Ron Taylor ran the projector.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 25, 2007 at 10:28 am

The Nichols Opera House in Bethel is listed in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide. They list it as “Nichols Opera House” rather than “Nichols' ”. The Manager was J.F. Nichols; the seating capacity was 460. Ticket prices ranged from 25 cents to 50 cents. The theatre was on the ground floor and it had gas illumination. The proscenium opening was 18 feet wide X 11 feet high, and the stage was 20 feet deep. There were 3 members of the house orchestra. Local hotels were Peat’s Hotel and the Fox Hotel; local paper was the Daily News. The 1897 population of Bethel was 4,000.

shoeshoe14
shoeshoe14 on January 30, 2009 at 3:24 pm

The News-Times has an article today with a great nice sunny pic of the new tenants of the top floor of The Opera House Cafe, The Center for New Media and the Arts, in 2100 square feet. It has 16 windows measuring 9 feet high and the historical society mentions the place’s past functions, such as, “social hall, vaudeville, roller skating rink, pool hall, drug store, car dealership and silent movie theater.

Hemingway862
Hemingway862 on April 15, 2009 at 12:07 am

Hi Folks,

We are the Center for new Media and the Arts, opening on the 2nd floor of the Opera House. My name is stephen and my business partner’s name is Brian. we’d like to invite everyone to our Grand Opening on saturday, May 2nd at 6:00 p.m. We believe our First Selectman, Bob Burke will be cutting a ribbon to mark the occasion of the arts coming back to the historic Opera house.

Our web address is here: www.dv-arts.com, ph.: 203-797-1786

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