Fourteen years ago, the Opera House was restored and opened as a state-of-the-art performance venue. Since then, we have had sold-out performances to Junction City Little Theater productions and outside acts from around the country.
But how well do you know the history behind this beautiful building?
Here are ten things you may not know about the C.L. Hoover Opera House.
1. THE ORIGINAL BUILDING COST $12,000 AND WAS USED FOR MANY PURPOSES
In 1880 the Junction City citizens voted to spend $12,000 on constructing a public hall. The front portion of the original structure was used for the second floor's fire department, police department, jail, and city council room. In the basement were horse stalls that housed the horses used to pull fire wagons. A clock tower with a bell on the roof was built to serve as the city fire alarm. The back portion was used as an Opera House. The original theater included an orchestra level, a balcony, a gallery, and three levels of box seats for a total of 600 seats. Lighting came from gas chandeliers.
2. IN 1898, A FIRE DESTROYED THE OPERA HOUSE
On a cold January evening in 1898, the bell on the Opera House rang three times to alert the citizens of a fire. It only rang three times because the fire was inside the Opera House and had burned through the rope used to ring the bell. There is an account of a citizen standing across the street with the snow falling, watching the clock and 2,500 lb. bell fall from the tower. Some believe the fire started in the fly gallery, where the scenery was kept, while others think the fire may have started in the basement, where a blacksmith area for shoeing horses had a forge. Even though the Opera House was destroyed, it was rebuilt and reopened in just nine months, in October 1898.
3. IN 1939, THE OPERA HOUSE WAS TURNED INTO A MOVIE THEATER
The Opera House started showing movies as early as 1915 with 10 cents a ticket! But the Opera House wasn't renovated into a movie theater until 1939. Air conditioning was installed, new cinema seating was added, and the name was changed to The Colonial Theater.
4. THE OPERA HOUSE AND JUNCTION CITY LITTLE THEATER ARE NOT THE SAME THING
While Junction City Little Theater has its office and performs on the Opera House stage, they are not the same organization. They have two different Boards of Directors and different ticket prices. JCLT pays to use the facilities, and the Opera House gets part of JCLT ticket sales. The Opera House is also home to the Junction City Community Band and The Junction City Arts Council.
5. THE OPERA HOUSE HAS AN EDUCATION PROGRAM
The Opera House has had a long history of presenting shows for the youth of the Junction City community. But, starting in 2018, the Opera House saw a need for an after-school theater program for middle school-age children and younger. Thus, After School Theater Repertory Actors (ASTRA) was born. ASTRA provides 6th-8th graders with knowledge of theater, music, dance, and performance while helping the children gain confidence. Actors Creating Theater in One Acts (ACT ONE) is for 4th-5th graders and focuses on one-act shows that help students improve their performance skills. Activity Imagination Music (AIM) is a pre-k program that started in the fall of 2021. It's a 6-week program, once a week for ages 3-5. It's a space for young children to learn performance skills. These programs are a part of the Fine Arts Academy.
6. THE OPERA HOUSE PROVIDES ALL KINDS OF ENTERTAINMENT, NOT JUST OPERA
In fact, the Opera House hardly ever does Opera! The Opera House is just the name of the building. They have had stunt dogs; local musicians play in Harmony Junction, movie screenings, tribute bands, ballets, live theater, comedians, magic shows, handbell concerts, and so much more!
7. YOU CAN RENT THE WHOLE OPERA HOUSE OR JUST A ROOM.
As well as being a performance space, people can rent the whole Opera house or just a room for weddings, parties, meetings, and much more. There is a catering kitchen on the ground floor and a smaller kitchen upstairs. The three areas available for events are the Walker Reception Hall, Montgomery Rehearsal Hall, and the Theater/Stage.
8. THE OPERA HOUSE IS EXPANDING!
The Opera House's education program, Fine Arts Academy, has made it necessary that the Opera House have more space. The Opera House bought the building to the east (131 West 7th Street) in 2021. Grants have been received from the Weary Foundation, the Jellison Benevolent Society, the Bramlage R2B4 Family Foundation, the Sunderland Foundation, Central Charities Foundation, and a significant gift from Michelle Munson and Serban Simu. Here are a few things that will be added
• Two more rehearsal/meeting/event areas Rendering of the Green Room
• The Junction City Little Theater and Junction City Arts Council will have a first-floor, store-front office accessible to everyone.
• An Art Studio and a Mini Art gallery.
A Green Room and dressing rooms closer to the stage.
9. THE OPERA HOUSE PROVIDES FREE SHOWS TO STUDENTS
Serving the youth of our community and region and providing youth education is a priority at the C. L. Hoover Opera House. In addition to their evening shows, the Opera House has presented free shows to over 2,000 elementary students across our region. These shows included The Wichita Children’s Theater productions of Alice in Wonderland and School House Rock, Buckets and Boards (a comedy percussion show), and the Fairy Doll Ballet (presented by the Ballet Kansas).
Dr. Nick Morgan, the Herington Elementary Principal, said, “Everyone said the show was terrific. I think you (C.L. Hoover Opera House) created a terrific memory for many of our students that never had an opportunity to see a live show." These shows were made possible by the generous financial support of the Jellison Benevolent Society and Central Charities.
10. HAVE YOU SEEN THE OPERA HOUSE GHOST?
Numerous reports of people swear they’ve seen something, felt a presence, or heard something. Some believe it's the ghost of JCLT founder Bettina Coover; however, after talking with Lisa Divel, who knew Bettina, she doesn't believe that it's Bettina, but her mother, Mona Kessinger, who was also a JCLT founder. People and staff have been associating the ghost with the name “Isabella,” which has stuck. There have also been reports of people seeing strange things in the Opera House windows, especially during October.