Grand Opera House
100 High Avenue,
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The Grand Opera House opened in 1883, designed by popular local architect William Waters, who designed many of Oshkosh’s historic buildings. The 921-seat theatre opened with the opera “The Bohemian Girl”. The theatre was designed in the style of a late-19th century European opera house, complete with lavish decor including a blend of Queen Anne and Neo-Classical styles in the gracefully appointed auditorium, which contained a balcony and large stage.
The Grand Opera House was noted for its superb acoustics and among those who appeared on its stage during its early years included Mark Twain, Sarah Bernhardt, Maude Adams, John Philip Sousa and President William Howard Taft.
By the 1920’s, the Grand Opera House was presenting vaudeville acts on its stage, and among those to perform there during this time included Harry Houdini and Harry Blackstone. During the late-1920’s, the Grand Opera House closed for a number of months while it was remodeled and modernized to the plans of architectural firm Dick & Bauer, including heat, air, new plumbing, electricity and decoration. When it was reopened, as the Granada Theatre, it was used as a second-run movie house, with the ocassional live performance. By 1941 it was operated by Alliance Theater Corp. and had been renamed Grand Theatre.
In 1950, the theatre’s new owners moved the entrance from original grand entrance on the front of the building on High Avenue, to a newly-constructed entrance on the corner, with a new, plain triangular marquee. Furthermore, at this time, part of the stage was removed for the addition of more seats.
By the 1970’s, was operating as a venue for adult films. Ironically, it was during its years showing adult films, remodeled almost beyond recognition, that it was named to the National Register of Historic Places (1974). In 1980, the city of Oshkosh acquired the Grand Theatre, and two years later, a massive restoration project was begun to restore the Opera House to its original splendor.
It was finally rededicated in 1986, after a $3.5 million restoration and renovation project was completed. Appropriately, the Grand Opera House reopened with the same opera it originally opened with more than a century before, “The Bohemian Girl”. The breathtakingly beautiful Grand Theatre, a fine example of a Midwestern Victorian-era theatre, today hosts live stage shows, concerts, film screenings, community events, and much more. It also hosts the Student Discovery Series, a well-known children’s theatre, which includes a wide array of performances.
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