Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, December 25, 2005, pg. 6
A very Merry Christmas to all my readers of this column. With Christmas being on a Sunday this year, you have to make a choice of either going to church for Sunday services, OR opening presents at home with the kids and family on Sunday morning. Which will it be?
Did you know that Albion once had an Opera House? The building, stage, and former seating area is still there, although this fact is relatively unknown to our residents. The location we’re writing about is the big building housing the office of dentist Dr. Judy Warren at 225 S. Superior St. The big ornate windows above the first floor are now boarded up, but behind them is the location of one of Albion’s major 19th and early 20th century entertainment places. The Albion Opera House building was erected in 1868 by Theron Soule and George N. Davis. The facility seated 500 persons, and the stage measured 30 x 48 feet.
The Albion Opera House was used for traveling professional theatrical groups, local talent plays, lectures, Albion High School Junior-EX programs, vaudeville acts, minstrel shows, silent motion picture films, political lectures and rallies, and even wrestling competition. The seating area included a main floor, and an upper balcony. There was an orchestra pit by the stage area where live music was played during performances. Dressing rooms were located in back of the main stage.
A small narrow staircase (now removed) on the north side of the building led up to the Opera House. from the Superior St. sidewalk. Today, an unused doorway is located where the stairs once began. An ornate outside balcony was once located on the second floor, and young men used to perch themselves in the tall stately elm trees which once lined downtown for a free peek inside at the show.
Activity at the Albion Opera House reached its peak in the early 1900s. In 1918, a state law was passed which forbade the showing of motion pictures on second floors, due to the flammable nature of picture film at that time. Pictures were shown downstairs at the Censor Theater instead. With the advent of theaters and other facilities in Albion, activity at the Opera House wound down during the 1920s, and the facility was closed.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present at 1957 photograph showing building owner Hadley H. Sheldon (1865-1963) standing on the Opera House stage, reminiscing about days gone by in this once-popular facility. Notice the large brass gas chandelier hanging above him. Sheldon owned and operated a drug store downstairs in the building for many years and was in charge of closing the Opera House in the 1920s. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could restore our Opera House here in Albion as other communities have done in theirs? It would make a great location for our local theater groups to perform.
1957 photograph of Hadley H. Sheldon on the Opera House stage
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic