The Holyoke Opera House

One thing I’ve come to enjoy about Holyoke is its rich history in the performing arts. In its prime the City had several theaters, one of which is currently being refurbished for use as a performing arts center.

Most others did not survive the decades of decline in the 20th century, but one such building has left a wealth of information and artifacts in its wake. This building was the Holyoke Opera House.

Rendering of the front of the opera house, as rendered in the American Architect and Building News.

Completed in 1878 through the patronage of William Whiting, one of the City’s paper magnates, the Opera House was built alongside the Windsor Hotel on the corner’s of Dwight and Front St adjacent to the First Level Canal.


The architect was one Mr. C[harles?] S. Luce, whose Romanesque work seems to have graced several cities in New England during the latter half of the 19th century.

The Windsor Hotel as it appeared with the Holyoke Opera House attached at its rear wall. While both buildings were constructed in 1877, the Hotel itself proved short-lived as it burned down in 1899.

Ultimately both buildings succumbed to fire, but while the Hotel fell in 1899, the Opera House didn’t come under the wrecking ball until 1967- leaving behind a century of theatrical productions. The opera house celebrated its opening night sometime in April of 1878 with a production of Louis XI, starring an actor named John Albaugh, and the noteworthy leading lady Ada Rehan, prior to her rise to national fame.

The House held enough space for an audience of 1400 people, and its stage, being 91′ across by 52′ high, was reportedly the second largest in New England at the time of its construction. To view some of the architectural elements of the opera house in greater detail, click on the highlighted areas in the image below-

Over the years the theatre changed hands a number of times, opened under management of the Chase Brothers, and subsequently one B.L. Potter, and later the Goldstein Bros. Amusement Company. By the mid-20th century the building had changed names several times, with its last iteration being the “E.W. Loews State Theater”.

An advertisement for the Holyoke Opera House from “Julius Cahn’s Official Theatrical Guide [for] 1902”, when the theatre was under the managership of B.L. Potter, who was formerly a landlord for the Windsor Hotel.
Though it has gone the way of vaudeville, entering in the annals of American history, its memory still persists in the minds of many to this day.

Box Seats in the Holyoke Opera House

2 thoughts on “The Holyoke Opera House”

    1. I wish, unfortunately that’s the most detail I’ve found. Here’s the URL to the full resolution image-
      http://www.isotypes.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/ANightAtTheOpera.png

      There are surprisingly few photos of the place online, and no others of the interior. There are some additional photos of the Windsor Motel with just a corner of the opera house peaking out (clicking + to zoom will show some detail)
      https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/book_viewer/commonwealth:sq87dv99x#1/15
      https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/book_viewer/commonwealth:sq87dx027#1/155
      https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/book_viewer/commonwealth:sq87dx027#1/47

      http://images.forbeslibrary.org/items/show/695 (way in the distance)

      I’ll let you know if I find anything in the future but until then I’d reach out to Glenn Sullivan, Wistariahurst, or the City Library. There’s a lot out there that hasn’t been digitized.

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