Peacedale Opera House

South Kingstown, RI 02879

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This multi-use facility was built by Frank J. Fagan in 1921 using lumber from an abandoned mill at Mooresfield. The opera house was used for movies, dances, fairs and basketball games. It closed in the 1950’s and was razed in the 1960’s.

It was located in the village square area known as Peacedale Flats. This facility was built earlier than and is different from Patsy’s Hall, which arrived in the 1930’s, and is still standing. In her “Images of America” volume on the village of Peace Dale (generally spelled Peacedale), Betty J. Carter gives a few details about the existence of this place.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 22, 2005 at 3:27 am

The building on the far right in this photo, circa 1927, is the Peacedale Opera House. Here is a link to the other Peacedale theatre, variously known as Patsy’s Hall, Peacedale Theatre, State Theatre.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 28, 2005 at 1:49 am

Origins of the theatre

From A Stroll Through Memory Lane, 1978, by Oliver H. Stedman, reprising an earlier article of his [year?] for The Spectator:

Through the years preceding and during the first World War, Frank J. Fagan (then a prominent businessman of that section of Peace Dale…) was possessed with the feeling that all the places of entertainment should not be confined to Wakefield [about a mile away], but that Peace Dale should have a place of amusement also. These thoughts were put aside somewhat during the war years, but early in 1920 Mr. Fagan was able to secure what seemed like an ideal place for his project, the lot formerly occupied by Easterbrook’s wood yard.
(…)
Work was soon started on a new theatre for Peace Dale, to be known as the Peace Dale Theatre and to others as Fagan’s Opera House. …The theatre building was well underway by midsummer of 1921 and practically finished by October of that year. It had a fine birch floor for dancing in the main hall, a balcony on both sides and in the rear, and a stage 20x20 on the north side. The general layout was much the same as Miller’s Opera House in Wakefield. There were small stores and a ticket office on each side of the main entrance and modern heating, plumbing and lighting throughout.

The dedication and opening took place on the evening of October 26th, 1921, as our local paper, “The Times,” said, “With a dash and vigor which augurs well for its future success.” It was a big night for Peace Dale. A line formed from the ticket office to the railroad bridge [the then Kingston-Narragansett Line, now a bike path] and cars were parked all around the streets and well into Rocky Brook and along High Street.

Roy Quigley, the new manager, had the ticket office and Frank Sims took charge of the main door. Roy remained for some time as manager and was succeeded by Frank Sims, who had charge of the theatre for many years. A band concert by the Peace Dale Band, ouside and inside the new building, opened the exercises. There was a short speech by Mr. Edmund Lyons noting the Flats [town square] progress, and the unveiling of a community flag for the flagpole on the green concluded the opening ceremonies. This was followed by a comedy and western movie and dancing to the music of Ben Eaton’s Orchestra until well after midnight.

From that night on, Fagan’s Opera House was the scene of fine moving pictures, community dances, fairs held by various organizations, baseball and football clubs and firemen. It was also the place where for many seasons the Champion South Kingstown Basketball teams held their home games.

With the coming of World War II, and television somewhat later,…attendance fell off. Frank Fagan, Sr. passed away and the surviving members of the family moved from town and lost interest in the property. Closing in the early 1950s and unused and unoccupied, it became a menace to adjoining property and was finally condemned by the town building authorities and about 10 years ago [late 1950s?] went under the wreckers' hammer. A sad ending for a project which had started only a few years before with such enthusiasm and good will.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 28, 2005 at 2:07 am

Those Saturday Nights at Fagan’s

By an unknown author, as quoted in Oliver H. Stedman’s A Stroll Through Memory Lane, 1978:

What flushed me out of semi-retirement was the news report that Fagan’s is going to be torn down. Fagan’s Opera House still stands, at least for now, in the business center of Peace Dale Flats in South Kingstown. Ah, what memories, those great Saturday nights at Fagan’s. We young fellows came down from upper South County, while others arrived from the Pier [Narragansett] or as far south as Westerly. Still others, students, came down the line from the then R.I. State College [later University of R.I.] The Opera House was strictly a family movie theatre, but on Saturday nights we were all drawn there for the later dancing with the local belles.

Ah, what belles. They really rang our chimes, and they didn’t have to blow in out ears to follow them through any steps they cared to do on the dance floor.

When the movies had ended each Saturday night about ten o'clock, the crowd flocked to the rear of the theatre while the staff pushed back against the wall the rows of chairs with folding seats. The peanut shells, empty popcorn boxes and candy wrappers were swept away, and the orchestra set up in a corner near the stage that held the movie screen.

[A long description of the music and the dances ensues.]

Fagan’s soon will be but a memory, but what a happy memory…

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 17, 2011 at 3:43 am

This theatre was part of the September 1923 6th Paramount Week. In this advertisement from the (Providence) Evening Tribune, September 1, 1923, we see a fascinating list of Rhode Island area theatres, many long-gone and long-forgoten, or even unheard of, as well as what they were showing during that week. The Peacedale Opera House showed Walter Hiers in Billings Spends His Dime. CLICK HERE and move image to see all theatres.

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