Colorado Historical Tour Guide – D. Ray Wilson – 1990


Colorado Historical Tour Guide – D. Ray Wilson – 1990

  • Author D. Ray Wilson – 1990
  • Published by Crossroads Communications
  • Carpentersville, IL 60110-0007
  • Manufactured in the United States of America

The CENTRAL CITY OPERA HOUSE, on Eureka St., was built by Cornish and Welsh miners in 1878 at the height of Central City’s heyday as a booming mining town. After the turn of the century, it suffered a decline, but was revived by a group of Denver business leaders and re-opened in 1932 with Lillian Gish in “Camille.” In the 1980s, the historic Opera House has been beautifully restored to its original splendor with exquisite ceiling murals by John Massman.

Today, the Central City Opera Festival is one of the oldest in the United States, and presents some of the finest voices in America. All Central City Opera productions are performed in English. The Opera Festival runs each summer from early July through mid-August. Each summer two operas and one operetta are presented.

Early-day Central City suffered disastrous fires as did other mining camps and towns. In 1873 a major fire destroyed most of downtown. The 1874 fire, that destroyed most of the central part of town, was believed to have been set off by celebrating Chinese.

Central City Opera House – interior

Two women, Anne Evans and Ida McFarlane, are credited with much of the restoration that occurred in the 1930s to develop Central City into a national historic attraction. Anne Evans was the daughter of John Evans, the second territorial governor of Colorado. Ida McFarlane, whose husband and his father and family had lived in Central City most of their lives, was head of the English department at the University of Denver. The two women not only saved and restored the Opera House but went on to launch productions in it. They are also credited with the restoration of the Teller House. Both buildings have since been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Through their Central City Opera House Association they acquired several other historic holdings.

*** The New York Times: Denver, Col., July 16\—In an impressive ceremony, amid the merry laughter of “pioneer” belles and gay young men, and at a cost of $250,000, the famous Central City Opera House was brought to life tonight after a silence of fifty years. Men, women and children from the Atlantic Seaboard and the Pacific Coast came to this “phantom” village, once the miners’ capital. Daughters and sons, granddaughters and grandsons of pioneers who once made those same walls vibrate with their applause were there for the gala opening of the revival, in dress such as their ancestors wore at the theatre when it was new. Some of the gowns, handed down through the fifty years, were once heard to rustle down those same aisles. Every person in the audience represented some famous character of the time when Central City was the centre of Colorado’s gold mining industry. “Camille” typified to perfection the taste of the ‘80s in the theatre.

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