Albion Opera House (2nd and 3rd floor), 1869-1920s
Judy Warren Dentist
Large, three story building with long, round-arched window banks spanning two floors. On the sides and rear of the building are large painted advertisements that cover large portions of the exposed walls of the building. An extensive renovation of the first floor was carried out by Dr. Judy Warren, a local dentist who purchased the building.
Source: National Park Service; Superior Street Commercial Historic District Registration Form. Prepared by Lloyd Baldwin. October 1996.
Historic Preservation Notes +
One of Albion’s most neglected landmark buildings. Albion was among the first cities in Michigan to construct an opera house. A fully functioning theater and civic center from 1869 to the 1920s, most people today have forgotten what this building was used for. A 500 seat theater and 30 foot deep stage are located on the 2nd and 3rd floors of this building. This space was closed in 1929 when the Bohm Theater opened.
In addition to historic and architectural significance, this site has archeological significance as well. Since the time the theater was closed, fixtures, posters, chairs, etc. remained untouched. When the stairs to the theater were removed in the 1970s this limited access, further helping to preserve the archeological integrity of the space.
Owners are advised to 1) create a temporary stair to ease access to the theater space, 2) to conduct an extensive archeological survey of artifacts contained in the space, and 3) to consider restoring the theater so that it may become a center of civic life in Albion again. Preservation tax credits are available and additional assistance may be found from concerned people and organizations in Albion that recognize how wonderful it would be to see this space in operation again.
And, if deterred by arguments that the theater is a fire hazard and unsafe. True, there are a few tragic examples of 2nd floor theaters being unsafe. But, remember that Albion’s opera house operated for 60 years without danger. And, if appropriate measures are taken during the restoration to make the space safe (adding proper ingress and egress, using fire retardant materials, installing a sprinkler system in a non-intrusive way) the Opera House should be just as safe as any other place where large groups of people meet.
The current owner has done a wonderful job renovating the south half of the first floor. Further, the pink/blue/gray painting scheme nicely accentuates the architectural elements, including the 2 story round arched windows. Before a full fledged renovation is even considered, it may be possible to reinstall the windows on the 2nd and 3rd floors. To help shed some light on the subject perhaps?
Source: James B. Field, Souvenir of the City of Albion, 1894.
These 1967 photographs show the remains of the Albion Opera House, a place of entertainment and social gatherings from 1868 until just after World War I. The Opera House was used for traveling musical groups, local talent plays, lectures, theatrical groups, political and social meetings, vaudeville, and even wrestling and sporting events.
Depositors of the Albion National Bank gather on December 4, 1912 to demand their money back from the US government. They took this picture and sent it with a fifteen page petition to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Posters and writing on the wall.
Chairs prepared to be taken away from theater.
Lighted sign that once hung outside.
View from inside of ticket booth looking towards audience.
Discarded lighting equipment.
High school “Junior Ex!” performances were held in the 1920s before the Opera House was closed.