Opera House History & Milestones
The Opera House opened it doors in 1889 and has played an important role in the region through administration of 20 presidents, wars and the Great Depression. The Opera House was built during the age of horses and steam. Near the end of the 19th century, Fayette was a growing community. Located on the Toledo and Western Rail Road and just south of the Michigan Southern Railroad, the village offered several amenities that were unavailable in other communities within the region. The town boasted an eight grade school, a thriving business district and residential community and was home of the Fayette Normal College of Music and Business that later became Fayette Normal University.
The Opera House was built for approximately $4,000 and housed on the first floor village offices, shops, the jail and later the fire department. The upstairs was dedicated for the use of spectator and community events. Live touring theater as well as locally produced events were staged and the facility later became the community's first basketball court. Performers such as Tennessee Boys' Choir and Jefferson performed on its stage and the University used the facility for its Lyceum Courses and graduation ceremonies. The Opera House's use declined after the Second World War and the building was sold for commercial use. By the late 60's the commercial venture was discontinued and the structure was used as a warehouse. Located in the center of the village and surrounded by empty storefront the Opera House was the lone remaining structure which represented the early growth period of the community and it's renovation was considered pivotal to the renaissance of the community's business district.
In 1978 the Fayette Community Fine Arts Council spearheaded a drive to acquire the structure and return it to its original usage. Over the past three decades a core of dedicated volunteers have led the effort to renovate the structure as a community and cultural center. That effort has been successful.
The Opera House story is greater than the restoration itself. The Opera House has become the home of the Fayette Artist Series and Glasgow Reed Organ Series. The Opera House has hosted professionals from the Cincinnati and Cleveland Operas, the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, and performers from Alabama, California, Boston, and New York. It houses the senior citizen's nutrition site and has hosted numerous community meetings, private receptions, and weddings.
For some, the Opera House represents a period that has been relegated to history. However, for those involved in the restoration of the facility and promotion of the arts, the Opera House represents a bridge to the future. It has been and remains the vehicle through which a strong sense of community can be forged.