THE EARLY YEARS: The Vergennes Opera House is certainly part of a grand tradition of community-based “Opera Houses” that served, historically, as cultural centers and performing arts facilities throughout Vermont.
Built in 1897 by, and for the people of Vergennes, it cost $12,000 and took one year to complete. Adorned with the same beautifully painted main stage curtain you see today, it opened its doors and welcomed many famous people including President Taft and Tiny Tim. It hosted political rallies and debates, weddings, school graduations, town meetings, and scores of musical and theatrical performances. In 1901 the Edison Company brought an amazing invention to the Opera House, the Projecting Kinetoscope and showed three short films by the famous director Edwin S. Porter. That was the first time moving pictures were seen in the Addison County area.
Since those early days, both the movies and the Vergennes Opera House have undergone a great many changes.
TIME OF NEGLECT: By the early 1970’s the Opera House had fallen into a bad state of disrepair and was closed. It stayed in darkness for 24 years until a group of volunteers decided to raise money to save it.
RESTORATION AND REBIRTH: The group named themselves the Friends of the Vergennes Opera House and with a great deal of help from the community, successfully raised and invested more than $1.5 million in the building – a monumental effort for such a small community.
GRAND RE-OPENING: The Opera House proudly reopened its doors in July 1997 with a performance by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. Today it serves the 2,500 residents of Vergennes and a population of over 20,000 people from the surrounding area. It is once again a vibrant, cultural and community performing arts facility presenting a diverse range of high quality, accessible performances and educational programs for children and adults year round. It is indeed unique and the concerted effort to restore it has served as a catalyst for the revitalization of the entire Vergennes community.
The Friends of the Vergennes Opera House are proud of our role in providing that initial “spark” and we delight in the opportunity to continue to play a starring role in a revitalized and reenergized community.