By Sheryl White on behalf of
the Old Opera House Theatre and Cultural Centre Committee
The Old Opera House Theatre, an iconic structure in Kooskia, built in 1912 is for sale. A small group of locals who love the theatre and arts have formed a corporation and are working diligently to raise funds to purchase it as a community cultural centre.
The value of the Opera House building, historically speaking, is immeasurable. The Opera House stage was graced by a great local Jazz musician, Lee Morse. The Opera House is one of Morse’s earliest known performance venues still in existence. The Old Opera House fulfills requirements to be placed on the state’s historical registry.
It functioned as an opera house a little more than a decade when the building was pressed into service for other purposes. Over the next 60 years, the stage was hidden from view and was not rediscovered until 1994 when the Graves family brought the Opera House back to life. Theatrical productions from musicals to melodramas gave locals and tourists the opportunity to experience the theatre.
Earnest money has been laid down and a preliminary contract to purchase has been signed, and our most urgent need is to raise the capital of $199,000 to purchase the building within a 60-day period ending June 1. There are other interested buyers for this building, but the Old Opera House committee members are the only ones interested in the Opera House for its original purpose; a community theatre and cultural centre. If we are unable to raise the funds, the building will be sold to those interested in converting the building/property to another use.
In addition, we need funds to restore the facility for reuse; both the upstairs and the downstairs need construction or repair, rewiring in some places, replace/modify the emergency fire escape, insulation installed, heating system installed for year- round use of the facility, to list just a few.
Finally, we wish to raise funds to support our first year of getting the building up to full use both upstairs in the theatre and also downstairs with small room rentals for vendors and the large room for events. Our total fundraising goal is $500,000.
We are looking at multiple funding options that will become clearer within the next two weeks. Those options include potential community shareholders, donations, finding a financier, and crowd-funding through Indiegogo. We hope to have our crowd-funding site up by April 3 so will have a link in next week’s paper. We will also be looking for Social Media Tigers to help us get the word out.
“It is a well-known fact that performing arts centers are major factors in the development of a successful community. A great example is the Music Hall of Tarrytown, NY, a movie theatre built in 1885, that was closed due to new construction in the area and plans were in place for it to be torn down. The town mirrored its state of decay: the run-down Main Street was full of bars, motorcycle gangs and boarded-up stores. This old theater was rescued by a group of local citizens who recognized that this building was unique and incredibly important to the economic and cultural welfare of the area. Today, the Music Hall is thriving as a venue for live performances and films. It is the center for community groups where students have the experience of performing and is a haven for professional artists. At the same time that the theatre was brought back to life, Tarrytown began to see positive change and it is presently flourishing. The streets are generously lined with shops and restaurants; not one boarded-up store exists. Tourism is popular and people are scrambling to move and live there. Twenty-four years after the Music Hall was to be demolished, people are treasuring it and cannot get enough of what they so nearly lost,” quoted from the League of Historic American Theatres manual.
We implore you to help us preserve this amazing building as a theatre and cultural centre; a living legacy and a place for future performers and audiences to experience the magic of the theatre.
As of next week, we will have contact numbers and more information about donations. A meeting will be held Saturday, April 1 at 10 a.m. at the Kooskia IOOF Hall for all who have expressed interest at previous meetings or anyone new who would like to be a part of helping us move forward, please come and invite a friend to come too!