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Quincy Square Museum
East Main Street
Earlville, New York
THE STORY OF THE
EARLVILLE OPERA HOUSE
BY SHERBURNE TOWN HISTORIAN
ROSE L WELLMAN
Book available for purchase at the Quincy Square Museum.
See Contact pages for author information
Some Personal Sketches
Mr. Douglass at the age of 18 joined the 157th Regiment and served during the Civil War.
He was mustered out in 1865 and joined his uncle in the drugstore business in Peterboro.
The family moved to Earlville in February of 1873, where they purchased C L Cotton's Drugs,
Groceries and Hardware. In 1877 he found himself on his own and it wasn't long before he
was serving as Postmaster and agent for the Western Union Telegraph, and he was soon
considered a prominent citizen of Earlville. He then became invoved with the local cemetery
association and the First National Bank, being director and president at the time of his death.
As there were no facilities for public entertainment at this early time, Mr. Douglass, along
with Wiliam Calkins and John R Parsons who were also interested parties, made plans to
change this situation by organizing the first Earlville Opera House Company.
For the first few years the Baptist Church on Mill Street (now West Main Street) was
used for rehearsals and performances.
When the first of the village's devastating fires occured in 1886 Mr. Douglass' drug store
on the corner was one of many to be destroyed.
In 1937, Silas Baker, a local automobile dealer, purchased the Opera House from the
Douglass family and renovated it to accommodate talking pictures. It was in a news clip
dated June 4, 1937 that the headlines read, "Old Douglass Theater to reopen as the Earlvile
Theater." The audacity to call the regal opera house a movie theater! The next week the
newspaper told us that Mr. Baker had spared no expense in making the theater up-to-date
with comfortable seating, eye-pleasing decorations and efficient equipment.
By 1982 the Earlville Opera House was gradually emerging as a theatrical jewel through
the restoration efforts of a dedicated group of local citizens whose effort were stimulated by
the enthusiasm of audiences and performers alike. By this time fres paint was in the air,
newly stenciled walls were becoming a reality, thanks to the work of Dick Bennet, Wilbur
Bigelow and Jon Schoonmaker, along with many other generous volunteers. They spent
hours, days, and months of their time and their untiring energy; they even dug into their
own pockets when funds were low to assure us that our over 100 year old building would
not fall to the wrecker's ball.
Dick Bennet passed away on September 28, 1991 and in the Winter of 1992 Earlville Opera
House newsletter his daughter, Marcia wrote a fitting tribute to her father and best regards
to the opera house.
This newsletter, celebrating 100 years of the opera house gave special recounting of its
history and what more suitable venue to honor Dick Bennet.