Smyrna Opera House

7 W. South Street,
Smyrna, DE 19977

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 29, 2017 at 3:28 am

Here is the web site of the Smyrna Opera House. A history page says that the walls of the two lower floors survived the 1948 fire, but the top floor and decorative tower were unrepairable and were demolished. The two surviving floors were roofed over, leaving a flat-roofed, two-story structure, but when the building was renovated a few years ago the mansarded third floor and tower were reconstructed.

muviebuf on January 28, 2017 at 8:54 pm

The opening description is wrong. The Opera House was built in 1869. It began screening movies in 1935. It was known variously as the Roxy and the Como.

As Richard Wolfe notes in his 2009 comment The Smyrna Opera House is separate and distinct from the 1948 movie theatre which was built on Commerce Street for the George M Schwartz chain from Dover Delaware. It was the 1948 Smyrna theatre that had the balcony and cry rooms. The link to the 1948 pictures (posted in 2007) by Ken Mcintyre are pictures of the Schwartz Symrna Theatre on Commerce Street and are not pictures Symrna Opera House. In fact you can see the balcony and glass enclosed cry rooms in one of Mcintyre’s pictures. That Mcintyre link should most likely be moved to the Smyrna Theatre on Commerce Street.

RichardCWolfe on June 8, 2009 at 5:56 pm

These are two different theatres.

The information in the heading above gives the proper information for the Symnra theatre, but the wrong address which is what has caused the confusion. 7 West South Street is the location of the restored Opera House.

The Symnra theatre built in the 40s is located at aprox. 106 South Commerce Street, about three blocks from the Opera House. The building is still there, but what it currently is used for I have no idea.

If you go to Live Search Maps, type in the 106 South Commerce Street address and you will see the building on the birds eye view. To the left of the theatre are some parking lots, then a church. Look at the exterior photo from the July 9th, 2007 post above, and you will see the building shape conforms to that in the ariel view, and you will see the church to the left.

kencmcintyre on April 16, 2009 at 3:38 am

That’s what I think. I just can’t turn the 1948 photos into this place, even with the rebuilding. Not sure if the original addition was for the 1948 place and then the mention of performing arts was added after the first post on 4/29/05. I can see the history being theater and then hardware store.

kencmcintyre on April 16, 2009 at 3:29 am

So it’s a facsimile of the old building.

kencmcintyre on April 16, 2009 at 3:24 am

Unless like they said, they tore down all the old parts and then much later rebuilt everything to look like the opera house. Still odd, though.

kencmcintyre on April 16, 2009 at 3:15 am

They do look like two different buildings, though.

kencmcintyre on April 16, 2009 at 3:13 am

Last comment on this: I guess from reading the history they tore it down after the fire in 1948 and rebuilt it later. Question answered.

kencmcintyre on April 16, 2009 at 3:10 am

I’m having a little trouble reconciling the 1948 exterior photo posted on 7/9/07 with the current photos of the building. I’m hoping that we’re not mixing up the Opera House with another stand alone theater called the Smyrna.

kencmcintyre on April 16, 2009 at 3:09 am

Here is another photo of the Smyrna Opera House:

kencmcintyre on June 29, 2007 at 2:36 am

Can we fix the typos in the caption? It’s Smyrna.

pensfan77 on April 29, 2005 at 8:31 pm

The History of The Smyrna Opera House
Taken from the Smyrna Opera House web site.

The Smyrna Opera House was located in the Old Town Hall. It stood on land owned by Samuel B. Fisler, a prominent Smyrna citizen and resident dentist. It was leased for $40.00 per year until it was eventually bought from Fisler’s widow, Susannah, for $800. The Town of Smyrna has owned it ever since. It began in 1869 as a combination Town Hall, Opera House and Community Meeting Center

In 1887, the Smyrna town fathers enlarged the Smyrna Opera House, adding an extension that housed a proper stage on the second floor and the fire department on the first. The ‘Old Town Hall ’ had truly become a “full-service ” center for the community, housing as it did, on the first floor, the Town Hall, the Fire Department, the Police Department, and the local lock-up (two tiny barred windows on the South Street side of the building are the sole surviving remnant of this colorful part of Smyrna ’s history. )The second floor was devoted to the Opera House, and the third was used as a lodge hall.

Christmas 1948 marked a joyful holiday season that turned unexpectedly to tragedy. Holiday lights, which the Town always strung along the mansard roof, sparked a fire that destroyed the clock tower, the third floor, and portions of the balcony. Stories of the efforts of the fire fighters that night became the stuff of local legend. Fifty years later, at the ground-breaking for the restoration of the building, one eye-witness remembered vividly the brave soul who mounted a ladder to direct a hose against the fire and stayed there for the duration, frozen to the rungs by the spray until he was literally chipped loose several hours later, coated completely in ice. Ironically, when Wilson Cabinet Co. had been burned out earlier that same year from its location across the street, the firm moved its office to the former theatre in the Town Hall only to find itself burned out again. Eventually, the sections that had been the most damaged were removed, and the building was reduced to a two-story flat-roofed structure.

Then in 1994, the Smyrna-Clayton Heritage Association was formed with a mission to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of the greater Smyrna-Clayton area. After considering several projects, the Association decided to turn its attention to the possibility of restoring the Opera House. It seemed, at first, a remote prospect, given the depredations of time and the elements, but after commissioning a structural analysis and a feasibility study, they decided that the Old Town Hall deserved a second chance.

Today, the restored Smyrna Opera House and the accompanying, newly built Annex stand ready to welcome the community once again to their cultural home. It has been a long, expensive, and sometimes difficult process, but in the end, the result seems worthy of the effort. The Opera House, with its long tradition of service to the area, faces a future as one of the community ’s proudest ventures. It will be an embodiment of the faith, pride, and support that Smyrna and Clayton have in their citizens, their children, their past and their future. It is the once and forever dream, made true. -Mary M. Turner