The Opera House has stood proudly on the corner of Walnut Street and West Grand River since 1881 in downtown Howell. Time has passed, and this beautiful legend has seen technology flourish, traffic increase with each decade, and many moons of human existence end, with new life and beginnings always to follow. Although time passes and things change within society, this three-story late Victorian building, complete with original gas light fixtures, stands tall through the ages.
In its original state, the building featured retail space on the first floor with the theatre and balcony above, and was designed by renown Detroit architect Almon C. Varney. From 1881 until 1924, when the theatre was closed by the fire marshal, The Opera house was a true entertainment destination for people near and far, offering live shows, jugglers, and political speeches from presidential candidates and industrialist Henry Ford. The theatre is comprised of 800 seats and the cost was $11,000 to build in 1881. Interestingly, the Opera House has served many functions throughout its lifetime including a temporary home for the Livingston County Circuit Court in 1889. The Opera House theatre still features its original ticket window that was hung proudly in 1881 with its antique brass hinges from an era now closed.
Although seasons passed and the theatre seats sat empty and silent for over 85 years, this theatrical legend awaits a new beginning. In 2000 the Livingston Arts Council purchased the building and began renovation piece by piece. In May, 2007 the first floor renovations were completed and this expansive space is now available for private parties, wedding receptions and local events. The Opera House is host to community events such as Art Harvest, sponsored by the Brighton Art Guild each October, and from November – April, the Howell Winterplace Market on Sundays.
The Opera House: Past and Present
- Honorary Recognitions
- Outstanding Community Initiative Award, 2002
- Michigan Registered Historical Site, 2006
- Significant Historical Building, 2007
- Historical Preservation & Design Award for Preservation Stewardship, 2008
- Listed on the National Historic Register
Totally Townies thanks the Livingston Arts Council for their dedication to this architectural gem, and for the historical information provided on The Opera House.