Those of us who grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s remember grand old theatres like the Palace and the Paramount and the Warner, which is now the centerpiece of the DeYor Center. Before all these and before Stambaugh Auditorium, there was the Grand Opera House, located at 19 Central Square.
It had a regular seating capacity of 1400 with a main floor and two balconies. For special occasions it could accommodate 2000 people. Here is a seating diagram showing the main floor seating and the dress circle (the lower of the balconies):
The auditorium had a stage of 30 by 40 feet. It was served by two “commodious and neatly furnished dressing rooms” (Aley, p. 95). It had a huge gaslit chandelier that was only lit on special occasions. Allegorical figures representing music, drama, poetry, comedy, tragedy, and painting adorned the ceiling in paint. This photograph gives an interior view of the building:
The building was built in 1872, one of the many works of P. Ross Berry. The structure had an iron front that was 110 feet in length and 78 feet deep.
From 1872 until 1907, befitting its name, it was the site of many live performances. In 1879, Giles Bates Harber, once a local boy, would receive a hero’s welcome after leading an Arctic rescue. During William McKinley’s term as governor, he spoke at the theatre. In 1892, it was the center of 400th anniversary celebrations of Columbus first expedition to America. It served as the site of The Rayen School commencements. The theatre was remodeled in 1897. Then in 1907, Sam Warner began showing motion pictures there, the beginnings of the Warner dynasty. The theatre was closed in 1918 and demolished in 1920.
The Grand Opera House was a reflection of Youngstown’s growth as a cultural and industrial center. It sounds like a grand place indeed–one I wish I had seen.
To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!