While looking through some old books last week, I found an engraving captioned “New Albany Opera House.” Not knowing New Albany ever had such a facility, I was baffled one ever existed and then frustrated that it must have been torn down like so many other New Albany landmarks. It turns out the building still (partially) exists and has quite a following and even features its own Facebook page.
After a little research, it appears the building still stands today at Spring and Pearl Streets, though it’s lost half its height. Built in 1866 for a cost of $90,000, the 2,500 seat theater opened 143 years, one and a half weeks ago with a play entitled The Comedy of Fashion or Life In New York. Here’s a little more information from Our History New Albany:
The Opera House was quite a draw. “Arrangements have been made with the Railroad Company to bring citizens from Jeffersonville to attend performances during the season at $.15 each way. The ferry boats and Louisville Street cars will run until after the performance to accommodate visitors from Louisville and Portland.”
Also noted (amusingly) were some not so happy about this addition to New Albany. “Not everyone was happy about the New Theatre. Many ministers preached against the immorality of attending the theatre”
A fire in 1939 heavily damaged the structure requiring the top of the building to be removed. I have looked at the building as it stands today (seen below) and had dismissed it as some 1940s Art-Deco structure based on its lines and cornice. Now with history in hand, it’s clear to see that the recessed brick work corresponds exactly to the original building, only half as tall. Who would have known?