The conception of this historic theater began in 1899 when Frank A. Day, editor of the Fairmont Sentinel, began prodding local businessmen to build an opera house. The concept came to fruition when prominent local businessmen formed the Fairmont Opera House Company in March of 1901 and began construction of this building in1901 for approximately $20,000. From its beginning, the Fairmont Opera House has survived on the generosity of this community. In 1902, the Opera House opened to the public free from debt due to the generous support of local businesses. On the opening night, 400 tickets were sold for $5 each to a performance of "The Chaperones" (Quite expensive when you consider that a night at the Bulland House Hotel just down the street only charged $2 a day).
In all actuality, opera has very rarely been performed in the Fairmont Opera House. The use of the word "opera" in the name was, in the early 1900s, more politically correct than a theater or variety hall, which were deemed morally corrupt. During this part of our American heritage, opera was a product of high civilization and a respectable form of entertainment. Thus, the name preserved the moral standing of this theatrical house, even though the entertainment inside these walls was the same as in any variety hall or theater of the age. It is for the preservation of our history that the present name of this theater is the Fairmont Opera House.
From 1902 through 1912, this building was the one and only Fairmont Opera House. Its massive horseshoe balcony curving from stage edge to stage edge, decorative walls, and tinted electric lighting were a source of community pride. In these pre-movie and television days, the Opera House frequently presented professional plays and musicals by visiting repertory groups, traveling road shows, along with home produced talent productions, school commencements, and political speeches.
For five cents in 1912, our community had the chance to see a silent movie on the big screen at the plush Haynic. A five- piece "Haynic Orchestra" played at every movie, every night but Sundays. In conjunction with silent movies, live shows continued to be performed on our stage throughout the 1920s. However, by 1925 the novelty of the silent movies had faded, and Hay and Nicholas went back to the Opera Houses' roots and introduced more and more live performances. These live performances came to town through repertory companies playing one week engagements with different plays every night.
Today, the Fairmont Opera House is in its glory days once again. Having made significant progress in restoring the building, the new focus of the Fairmont Opera House is to bring the highest quality entertainment to our community. Final restoration is now complete, following extensive repairs to the roof and remodeling of the interior.
The Fairmont Opera House is proud to present season after successful season of live performances. Under the leadership of Kathi Peterson, manager of the Fairmont Opera House, this historic theater is being used for local and professional plays, live music and arts performances, local events, and private receptions and gatherings.
It is with the greatest of pride that so many volunteers put in their time, money and efforts to bring you the event you will see tonight, and in the future. So sit back and enjoy the show, absorb the historic environment, and remember the history that brought us here today.
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