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The Opera House is located in the Claremont City Hall Building. Dedication of the building occurred on June 22, 1897. The cost was $62,000. The style of the building is Italian Renaissance Revival. The architect was Charles A. Rich. Rich was a native of Beverly, Massachusetts, and graduated from Dartmouth College. Hira Beckwith, an architect in Claremont, was the contractor. Many of the construction materials for the edifice came from the New England area. The foundation was built of Green Mountain Rock and the base was dressed Connecticut River Brownstone from Springfield, Massachusetts. On the major part of the exterior are nearly one million Lebanon bricks.
On the ground floor is an entrance lobby which originally led to an assembly hall which seated 700 and was used for town meetings and balls. In 1960 the first floor was remodeled, turning the former hall into offices and a City Council chamber. Above the city offices is the Opera House. It has a frescoed ceiling and a decorative wall frieze culminating with a proscenium arch adorned with a combination of basswood, painted cream, and a gold leafed molded plaster-work in high relief. Above the proscenium arch there is a circular multicolored fresco of the New Hampshire state seal. The auditorium has a total capacity of 783.
In the early 1900's the Claremont Opera House was the entertainment center for the area. Helping make this a reality was a Claremont druggist named Harry Eaton. Eaton managed the Opera House for 32 years. He brought stock companies for plays, road companies for one night stands, musicals, vaudeville minstrel shows, and films. In 1906, Sousa's Band of fifty, with three soloists, appeared in a Saturday matinee.
Because of the lack of use, the doors at the Opera House were closed in 1963. The city contemplated removing the auditorium in favor of a more modern building for the city offices and the District Court. A Restoration Committee was formed in 1972. Through its efforts, the Opera House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and funds were raised to hire an architect by 1975. With the joint effort of the City Council and the Opera House Restoration Committee, a N.H. Historic Preservation Grant was received for a feasibility study in 1976. In 1977, the Restoration Committee became a non-profit organization, Claremont Opera House, Inc. With plans and studies completed, the city applied for and received a grant from the Federal Economic Development Administration. The municipal complex became a reality. Interior restoration was funded by a federal grant from Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, Claremont Opera House, Inc. and friends.
Since the grand re-opening of the Opera House on May 26, 1979, the Friends and Boards of Directors have raised funds, both publicly and privately, to re-equip the house. We have been able to expand and improve our programming and hire a director so that, once again, we are the entertainment center of the area.
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