Woodward Opera House To Reopen January 24th After 90+ Years

  • 1/9/2019 5:29:39 PM
  • Jesse Smith
  • Local News

MOUNT VERNON, OH - Originally built in 1851, the Woodward Opera House is the oldest authentic 19th-century theater still standing. Thanks to the hard work of a few dedicated renovators, the theater will be opening its doors again on January 24th, 2019.

Dr. Ebenezer Woodward built the opera house on the second floor of what is now 107 South Main Street, allowing commercial businesses to occupy the first floor. Dr. Woodward planned this with the hopes that Mount Vernon could have a performing arts venue that would not depend solely on theater revenue. That decision resulted in dozens of different establishments occupying the structure over the years.

The restoration project became a goal for members of the Mount Vernon community back in the 1970s when the Woodward was placed on the National Register for Historic Places. For over 25 years, various teams have been working on restoring the century-old structure. Now, in January 2019, it is nearly ready to open to the public. The restoration process has been painstaking and detailed.

"They wanted to bring it back to where it was in its glory days, back in the 1880s," said Danny Gum, Managing Director of the Knox Partnership for Arts and Culture. "They started peeling the paint one layer at a time until they got down to the very last layer of paint, and then they matched the colors throughout the whole Woodward Opera House."

To further match the original themes of the opera house restoration, the venue's new wallpaper is a reproduction of the original wallpaper from its original configuration in the late 1800s.

When the restoration process is complete, the Opera House will have 25,000 square feet of retail and office space for lease. The main theater boasts 500 seats, while two separate black box theaters seat 100 and 120 people. The lower level will accommodate a bakery and a community kitchen, which will provide food for the Opera House. The kitchen will also be open to local farmers to can or bottle products as well as flash freeze produce or meats. Entrepreneurs are welcome to take advantage of the community kitchen to launch their food products or prepare foods for sale.

The fourth-floor promenade will feature historically significant artwork in The Vernon P. Johnson Art Gallery, and another area in the building will host a history, arts, and culture museum. A cafe will sell naturally raised and naturally grown foods, and a shop called The Harvest will offer a variety of products all sourced from Knox County.

The renovated Woodward will offer a host of new products and experiences for Mount Vernon, but the main mission of the Opera House has been the same from the beginning: providing the community with art and entertainment in a sustainable way.

"It's a chance of a lifetime for me," said Gum. "I feel very honored to have these shows in such a historic venue as the Woodward Opera House. Very honored."

For more information on the project, visit www.thewoodward.org. Tickets are sold online, but can also be purchased at the box office on the second floor.

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