What is today known as the Old Opera House on George Street in Charles Town is actually two buildings, the first dating back to the 1890s. Then in 1910, Annie G. Packette raised $50,000 to construct a 500-seat theater. Its opening on February 11, 1911, ushered in an era of entertainment and service lasting for more than 30 years. The older building was retained as a secondary structure.
There were countless vaudeville performers, town meetings, silent and ‘‘talkie’’ movies, church services, political conventions, and other activities before the Opera House closed in 1948. It was condemned in 1956 but remained undisturbed until the 1970s, when community leaders restored the building as a performing arts center.
The main theater has 272 seats downstairs and 60 seats in a curved balcony at the rear. An orchestra pit is in front of the stage with the original curved rail around it. The theater lobby still includes a section of high tin ceiling and brass railing. The downstairs of the main building has been converted to an art gallery featuring regional artists. The secondary building, which has been used as apartments and as a tavern with two bowling lanes, now includes a dance studio, dressing rooms, offices, and other rooms.
The exterior is red brick with white trim in the federalist style, with prominent concrete keystones above windows. Three sets of double doors lead to the main lobby. The Old Opera House was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Read the National Register nomination.
This Article was written by Michael Ridderbusch
Last Revised on January 28, 2013
Hartgroves, Jean. "Old Opera House 20th Year Anniversary Celebration," Speech. West Virginia & Regional History Collection, West Virginia University Libraries.
"The Old Opera House, Established 1910, Reopened 1976," Program. West Virginia & Regional History Collection, West Virginia University Libraries.
Cite This Article
Ridderbusch, Michael "Charles Town Opera House." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 28 January 2013. Web. 26 November 2015.