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Photo of the newly renovated Newberry Opera House

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What can you do with a building that used to contain, among other things, jail cells and a fire station?

In 1882, the newly built Newberry Opera House housed, on the first floor, two stores, a fire station, a city council chamber, a clerk's office, and a police station. The second floor held a performance hall and stage. Touring companies of New York plays, minstrel and variety shows, famed vocalists and lecturers, magicians, novelty acts and boxing exhibitions appeared on its stage. Meetings, dances, college commencement exercises, and musicals were also held there. In the early 1900s it became especially popular because silent "moving pictures" were shown there. Slowly moving pictures replaced stage shows and in the 1920s the floor was remodeled as a movie theater. The building functioned as a movie theater until 1952.

After the movie theater closed in 1952, some people thought the building should be torn down, while others believed it was an important historical building. Eventually the supporters won and in 1970 the Opera House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the 1990s the city government gave up its space on the first floor, making it possible for the entire building to be renovated and returned to its original use as an opera house and community arts center.

The theater now has 427 theater seats that are historic reproductions, a stage, and a horseshoe-shaped balcony. Since its reopening, performances at the Newberry Opera House have included operas, musicals, jazz concerts, vocal and other performances.

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