Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Grand Opera House

The Grand Opera House. Photographer Unknown. CC BY 3.0

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!

3 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Grand Opera House

  1. Thank you for this valuable history lesson about Youngstown during the Gilded Age, but I question the identification of the building in the photo. From other pictures I’ve seen taken during that same period (c 1872), the building in the photo above was the original Mahoning Bank building (the site of the current Huntington Bank building). The shorter structure next to the bank was the Andrews-Hitchcock Company, and the building to the far right of the photo that is cut off was the Youngstown Opera House.

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  2. Unlike Europe , we don’t appreciate or respect our heritage. Out with the old, in with the new..who cares attitude….so sad. Can you imagine if we could enjoy that today? People would travel here to marvel at such amazing architecture, not to mention enjoy concerts etc. Shortsighted, and it continues.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was not aware that Youngstown had a Opera House. It’s not surprising as it’s consistent with the Gilded Age growth and wealth of the area. And a rather sophisticated building it was.
    I had missed the original 2019 piece about P. Ross Berry. Also an impressive piece of Youngstown history. Thank you for including that link.

    Liked by 1 person

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