History of the Saved

Woodsville Opera House

By John F. Page

.....The Opera Block was built in 1890 by the Woodsville Opera Building Association, under the leadership of local businessman Ezra B. Mann. The architects were C.W. & C.P. Damon of Haverhill, Massachusetts and the builder was S.S. Ordway of Worcester. All the lumber and beams for the building were hauled by oxen from the Mann family woodlots. Ezra Mann moved his drugstore business here from across South Court Street, where it had been founded in 1872; it continued here in the Mann family until 1974.

.....The Women’s Reading Club of Woodsville spent four years raising money for a tower clock, installed in 1924. Eventually the clock quit working. In 1990, the original works were removed and the clock was electrified. The old works were repaired and put in running order. They are now owned by the Haverhill Historical Society, on loan to the Montshire Museum in Norwich, Vermont.

.....The south end of the upstairs of the building was the Opera House, managed by Mr. Mann. It was the setting for all kinds of public events such as home talent theatricals, performances by traveling professionals, vaudeville, Chautauqua and dances. After 1914 and until the forties performances shifted mostly to moving pictures. Use of the Opera House continued for a variety of public and school events, such as high school proms and graduations.

.....The hall seated more than 600 and was elegantly decorated, with a gilded lobby and a stage and balcony, the latter described as a “golden horseshoe balcony with two side wing boxes.” The stage curtain, made by the O.L. Story Scenic Company of Boston about 1890, depicts a bucolic scene of the Concord River and the historic Old North Bridge at Concord, MA. The large brass chandelier was raised and lowered by electric motor.

.....In 1979-80, the Opera Block was sold and converted into 34 apartments for the elderly and disabled. In May 1980, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

.....Through the efforts of Shirley Cobb and others, when the Opera House was dismantled the stage curtain, chandelier and sections of the balcony railing and seats were saved for preservation by the Haverhill Historical Society.

.....In 2005 the Historical Society’s Board of Directors voted to give the stage curtain and chandelier to Haverhill Heritage for use in the rejuvenated Alumni Hall at Haverhill Corner. The chandelier is already in place; at present the two organizations are jointly raising the balance of $1,900 needed to fund the curtain’s restoration and installation in mid-November.

.....The Historical Society (P.O. Box 52, Haverhill 03765) would welcome contributions as well as any personal recollections or interior photographs of the Opera House.


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