The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Community

November 2, 2013

Big names entertained at Elwood opera houses

One remains today, other destroyed by fire

ELWOOD — The Elwood Opera House on Elwood's South Anderson Street operated from October 1891 to October 1902. During its 11 years of operation it was host to many of the biggest entertainment names of the time in the country.

The Elwood opera houses

The Elwood Opera House was truly a magnificent building and it is still with us. Today, very little remains of its original interior appearance when it opened for business in October 1891. Outside is a somewhat different story.

Located on the southwest corner of South A and South Anderson streets in Elwood, the front side of the three-story building retains near the top the words "OPERA HOUSE" embossed in stone proudly proclaiming for all to see the home of the once-famous theater.

The main entrance was on Anderson Street in the center of the building, as it is today. Immediately beyond the entrance is a stairway climbing to the second floor. Those stairs today, although different in appearance from the 1890s, bear evidence of the wear they incurred over a century ago when they were used by theater goers ascending them to attend the performances at the opera house on the second floor.

One additional unique feature of the Elwood Opera House can be seen on the South A Street side near the rear of the building. A set of double arches appear in the brickwork suggesting that once they had a purpose long since forgotten. An examination of an 1892 opera house drawing reveals the intended purpose.

Since the opera house was located on the second floor, it would have been quite difficult to deliver items such as stage scenery, props, and other large equipage necessary to support the major productions that played there.

To circumvent this obstacle the builder, Gustav V. Kramer, provided for the delivery of such items by creating two openings on the north side underneath the west end of the building directly below the stage area on the second floor. Wagons that brought the production's equipment from the train depot to the opera house could drive underneath the stage area and unload. When empty, the wagons pulled forward a short distance and then made a ninety degree turn and exited the building through another set of arches located on the west or backside of the building. Presumably freight elevators carried the delivered items to the second floor. The procedure was then reversed when the production was done and ready to depart Elwood for the next destination.

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