Earlville Opera House Celebrates Golden Anniversary
Published: July 14th, 2022
By: Shawn Magrath

Earlville Opera House celebrates golden anniversary The stage of the Earlville Opera House today has been largely preserved since first opening to the community as a performing arts center in 1892. (Photo submitted by EOH)

EARLVILLE - On the eve of its golden anniversary, local officials are touting the Earlville Opera House (EOH) as one of the longstanding “gems” of Chenango County.

This year marks the Earlville Opera House’s 50th anniversary. The half-century milestone gives patrons reason to celebrate EOH’s unaltered dual mission of enriching the Central New York community through visual and performing arts while preserving its historic building. The volunteer-based nonprofit has become one of the most recognizable historical staples of Chenango County.

The occasion was recognized by resolution at a meeting of the county board of supervisors on Monday. The resolution declares July 18 to be “Earlville Opera House 50th Anniversary Day” in Chenango County.

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“This is one of those gems of Chenango County,” said Board Chairman George Seneck. “It’s very valuable for the county that we have it.”

“We want to build the arts into the community, and I think that’s what the Earlville Opera House is doing in this rural area,” said EOH Executive Director Michelle Connelly. “We live true to our mission.”

The Earlville Opera House has been a centerpiece of the local arts community since 1892, when the building on East Main Street in downtown Earlville provided a stage for live entertainment, such as vaudeville acts, three-penny operas, and traveling medicine shows.

The venue closed during the years of the Great Depression but was given new life upon reopening in 1937 as a modified movie house, first showing silent movies and eventually “talkies.”

The Opera House was locals’ go-to for Hollywood’s newest releases for the next fifteen years. But as times changed in an era where cars, drive-ins and television took hold, business waned and the Opera House was again forced to close its doors. The building was shuttered in 1952.

In 1971, after nearly two decades of neglect, the building was threatened by demolition. American artist Joey Skaggs purchased the building before it could be razed. Skaggs then placed the building in the hands of the Earlville Opera House, Inc., believing that locals have a better vision of what they wanted artistically in the local region. The transition gave local artists a say in the building’s newest chapter.

An EOH board of directors was immediately established and in 1974, the EOH was given a place on the National Historic Registry. Curtains opened on their first live performance two years later. 

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EOH has planned a number of events to be integrated throughout the 2022 season to commemorate its 50th anniversary. Organizers hosted a “Golden Jamboree” summer festival in early July which spotlighted area artists, vendors, and craft beers and ciders.

What’s more, an ongoing retrospective exhibit has opened in the EOH East and West galleries, where the works of participating artists of the last half-century are on display.

“It’s a collection of works of art from artists who have been shown here over the years,” said Connelly. “What’s really exciting about this exhibit is that the original gentleman who had the opening exhibit here in 1972 wanted to participate.”

“For a lot of people, this (anniversary) has been very meaningful and nostalgic,” she added.

The EOH has a slate of acclaimed performers set to take the stage in the coming months, including Grammy nominee David Bromberg in September, and Grammy Award winning artist Amy Helm in November.

For a complete list of upcoming performances, tickets, or additional information on the Earlville Opera House, visit the EOH website, earlvilleoperahouse.com, search “Earlville Opera House Arts Center” on Facebook, or call (315) 691-3550.