Monday, October 27, 2008

The Grand Opera House of the South

As we entered Crowley, LA, we were greeted with a wonderful sight--the main street was closed in some parts, covered with gravel in other parts, and blocked by heavy machinery in still other places! "Wonderful" because these were all signs of a vibrant community. Parkerson Avenue, the town's main street, will have a landscaped median strip through the downtown area with additional landscaping at other points when the project is completed in about 15 months.

One of the buildings at the heart of this thriving community of about 15,000 people is the Grand Opera House of the South.

In 1898, at age 29, David Lyons took the first step toward bringing culture to the 4000 people in his hometown of Crowley. He purchased property for $500 and completed the Grand Opera House two years later at a cost of $18,000.

This reproduction of the staircase from the lobby evokes the feeling of a grand entrance.

On Opening Night, November 23, 1901, over 800 patrons saw a production of Harry Ward's Minstrels.

The steep slope of the floor resulted in good sight lines for all (main floor view, left, and balcony view, below).

Kimberly Gattle, the Executive Director of the Opera House, provided considerable information about the restoration. The theater seats were not the original wooden ones but were cushioned ones that had been obtained from Michigan.

The slight slope toward the stage was a unique feature of the seats along the sides of the balcony.

When Mr. Lyons died in 1940, the Opera House was closed and left virtually untouched for almost 60 years. In the Opera House's Musuem is an original tin medallion that appeared in the ceilings of the four theater boxes.

In the photo (right), the medallion is shown in one of the four boxes nearest the stage.

Over the years, performers had signed their names or left messages on a wall in a former dressing room. In the photo (left)are the following notations: "Capt. Racket May 27, 1903" and "Frank Brown" and what seems to be "Bronz Mankins Dec. 1938"

There are other signs in Crowley that signal a thriving downtown, and we will re-visit this town soon.

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