Smith Opera House

82 Seneca Street,
Geneva, NY 14456

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Showing 1 - 25 of 29 comments

Texas2step on September 10, 2018 at 7:29 pm

Schine’s Geneva Theatre opened on March 17, 1931. The feature film was “Parlor, Bedroom and Bath” with Buster Keaton.

jeffreyt on August 21, 2018 at 12:12 pm

The Opera House was known as the Strand for a short period of time

DavidZornig on December 7, 2017 at 5:30 pm

Photo as the Geneva in 1964 added, Via Bob Rokitowski‚Äé.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 1, 2013 at 4:36 pm

During the years 1918 and 1919, the Geneva Daily Times carries ads for the Regent and Temple Theatres and for a vaudeville and movie house called the Strand Theatre, but I find no mentions of the opera house during that time. The ads for the Strand vanish by 1920, and the Smith Opera House reappears. I wonder if they were the same theater?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 1, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Ranjit Sandhu’s partial list of the works of Leon H. Lempert & Son attributes the design of the Smith Opera House building to Pierce & Bickford, but says that Leon H. Lempert, Sr., designed the auditorium and stage of the theater itself, but he doesn’t cite a source for the claim.

The March 10, 1894, issue of The Engineering Record does note Lempert as the architect for William Smith’s proposed opera house at Geneva, but doesn’t mention Pierce & Bickford. It is possible that Smith decided to change architects, though its also possible that Lempert served as consulting architect for the theater portion of the building.

In any case, even if Lempert did design the auditorium, Victor Rigaumont’s later remodeling completely transformed the interior, so it’s unlikely that anything would remain of Lempert’s design today.

TLSLOEWS on June 2, 2010 at 3:04 pm

I agree the building is great but the new marquee looks good but does not fit in.

SchineHistorian on August 4, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Well neither of these marquees could come close to the stunning original Schine marquees. They knew how to do it right in those days!

Giles on March 10, 2009 at 11:00 am

what the dimensions of the screen?

SchineHistorian on December 28, 2008 at 8:12 am

Yes, it was one of the great heartbreaks when the reigning board of directors chose not to replace the marquee. The argument was made that it was Schine’s Geneva Theater for FAR longer than it was Smith’s Opera House – but at that time they were enthralled with the concept of an “opera house” – choosing to ignore the fact that the designation was more properly “vaudeville house”.

But for those of us who celebrate the Schine days, the interior is virtually unchanged from the 1931 opening night design and splendor. Some may argue that it is “the best of both worlds”…. i don’t… But some may! ; )

Patsy on December 26, 2008 at 10:33 pm

Correction: aren’t still in place

Patsy on December 26, 2008 at 10:32 pm

Too bad that the original marquees are still in place.

Patsy on November 12, 2007 at 11:09 pm

SchineHistorian: Yes, I really should have asked you, our wonderful Schine expert. A local town near me has a building that says Swetland Opera House at the top, but it is, of all things, an apartment building now so I do appreciate a town keeping their opera house! One time I did speak with a resident of this building and they told me that some of the apartments show signs of the building’s past as an opera house. I’m not sure what they meant and would like to see the interior of the building. If I get inside, I’ll let you know.

SchineHistorian on November 12, 2007 at 8:14 pm

Gee, you should have just asked ME Patsy! : ) The “folks of Geneva” neglected this wonderful architectural treasure for a very long time. They, of course, had nothing to do with the hideous mid- 60s re-do of the facade which removed that wonderful marquee, it was the subsequent owners after the Schine chain was dissolved who made the changes. Once Geneva woke up and realized what they had, it was almost too late. But, thanks to the efforts of a core group of people who were not about to let it go down for a parking lot. Today’s theater facade is a throwback to the old opera house while the interior is 100% Schine. A fair compromise, i guess – but i still fought hard for a REAL marquee to go back on it.

Patsy on November 11, 2007 at 10:19 pm

Lost Memory: Your Oct. 14, 2005 post that shows a b/w photo of the Geneva Theatre now proves to me that it is one in the same with the renamed Smith Opera House. The angle in the above postcard photo didn’t explain it to me until I looked at your previous post which shows the front exterior straight on. I do wonder why the folks of Geneva changed the exterior and also change the name? I would have left well enough alone!

roberttoplin on May 20, 2007 at 10:31 pm

The Smith Opera House opened Oct.29,1894. The Stage and Auditorium were designed by Leon H. Lempert,Senior.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on January 16, 2007 at 10:33 am

The Smith Opera House is listed under Geneva NY in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide. The seating capacity is listed as 900. F.K. Hardison was the Mgr. The house, which was on the ground floor, had both gas and electric illumination. The proscenium was 36 feet wide X 22 feet high and the stage was 40 feet deep. There were 6 members of the house orchestra. Geneva had one daily newspaper and 4 weeklies. Hotels were the Franklin, Kirkwood and International. The 1897 population was 10,000.

SchineHistorian on April 22, 2006 at 5:19 am

Yes, Patsy, the Lockport theater is indeed one of them. I’ve heard of one in Delaware too. Anyone else know of others?

Patsy on April 15, 2006 at 10:31 am

Schine KCN: Thanks for answering my Schine questions on CT and as a new member, welcome aboard! One of the theatres that still says Schine today may be the Palace Theatre in Lockport NY?

SchineHistorian on April 15, 2006 at 10:27 am

Patsy: I will try to get in touch with Karen Noonan, but i hear she can be hard to get hold of (hehehehe)! And as to the wonderful old Schine marquee, it was replaced in the late 60s or early 70s in a misguided attempt to “modernize” the facade. The replacement was a horribly, ugly triangular set up. While it is true that the change may have coincided with the dissolution of the Schine chain, many theaters simple removed or modified the Schine name on the marquee. Some actually retained the marquee and we know of at least two that still say “Schine” to this day.

Patsy on April 15, 2006 at 8:10 am

Schine KCN: Can you answer the vertical GENEVA sign question that I posted on 2/2/06

Patsy on April 15, 2006 at 8:08 am

TC: Do you have any photos of the auditorium?

Patsy on April 15, 2006 at 8:00 am

Schine KCN: Thanks for the correction of the thought-to-be stained glass window. BTW, do you know Karen Noonan, president of THSA who resides in Geneva NY? She is a SCHINE expert and has helped me alot with my personal theatre research. At the moment we are involved in communication with Cass Warner, granddaughter of Harry Warner. If interested go to as this address will take you to the Harry M. Warner Film Institute which gives information about the upcoming Silent Film Festival (first silent film theatre was in the New Castle PA). Ms. Warner will be at the festival to sign copies of her book, Hollywood Be Thy Name on April 21st at the Scottish Rite Cathedral.

SchineHistorian on April 15, 2006 at 7:13 am

Actually Patsy, that is not stained glass. It is a beautifully detailed wrought iron inset. I’ve been in that room so have been able to see it up close. Also, it was removed when the facade was worked on and it sat on the floor of the mezzanine for a few months. Got a chance to really look at it then.

Patsy on February 2, 2006 at 6:20 pm

TC: Hope that in the future you can include in your photos a close up of the half moon stained glass piece on the opera house exterior. Thanks.

Patsy on February 2, 2006 at 6:18 pm

I wonder what ever happened to the vertical GENEVA sign?