For generations, the stage of the historic 1894 Opera House in Boothbay Harbor, Maine has played host to actors and musicians from around the state and around the globe. With over 100 events and performances annually, there is almost always something happening at the House-an evening with a Grammy winning musician, a visit from a Broadway actor, nights of jazz or bluegrass, rocking Celtic concerts, lectures, holiday celebrations and community events fill our schedule. With fine acoustics, historic charm, a great old bar room upstairs and a commitment to reasonably priced tickets, the Opera House is a gathering place for the local community and visitors alike. The Opera House is a 501(c) 3 non-profit committed to the arts, the restoration of the historic building and the community.
A Very Short History of the Opera House
Since 1894 the Opera House has stood in downtown Boothbay Harbor. Originally built by members of the fraternal order, The Knights of Pythias (their crest remains emblazoned on the front of the building), the House served for decades as the lodge for both the Pythians and the Masons. In the intervening years, it lived many lives, and was a restaurant and bar and a private home and the downstairs performance hall was even transformed into a failed mini-mall for a period of time. In 2009 the Opera House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the Department of the Interior.
The great performance hall has seen everything from touring orchestras to wrestling matches, funeral services and proms, internationally acclaimed Grammy winning musicians and Broadway stars, folk icons and jazz greats, improv comedy and political debates, basketball games and the Grand March, operas and magic, movies and puppet shows, roller skating and almost anything else the times demanded. These days our performers arrive by car or tour bus, but a quick review of the Boothbay Register from earlier days reports on musicians and actors arriving via ferry from Wiscasset and points south. We have a parking lot today, only because the Strand movie theater burned down in the 1970s. We remain grateful to the firemen who saved the Opera House.
While the Opera House is filled with memories, at the turn of the 21st century it faced an uncertain future. At the time it was privately owned and nearly impossible to maintain. Over the past decade, through steady fundraising and unbridled enthusiasm, the old House was purchased and a non-profit organization was established to “save” it, restore it, and fill it with programming. Today, thanks to support from the community and visitors alike, the Opera House is thriving and open year ‘round.
The Pythian Lodge
While our programming takes place on the main stage, visitors are welcome to walk the long flight upstairs to the second floor. On some evenings the upstairs bar is open (in addition to the bar on the main floor). This space was once the Pythian lodge.
On days and nights when public performances are not scheduled the Opera House is often busy hosting private parties and meetings.