Barre City Hall and Opera House
Photograph courtesy of the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation

  Historic postcard view of the Barre City Hall and Opera House, circa 1900
Photograph courtesy of the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation

Completed in 1899, the Barre City Hall and Opera House contains one of the best preserved late 19th century small theater interiors in northern New England. Facing the town common, the building is one of Barre's most important landmarks. The imposing Neoclassical building was designed by George G. Adams, a well-known Massachusetts architect who was responsible for many public buildings throughout New England. The building represents an era when citizens had great public pride in their civic buildings, as well as the economic prosperity and growth Barre experienced at the end of the 19th century.

One hundred years later, the building still functions as it did originally. Offices for City Hall occupy the first floor, while the Opera House encompasses the upper floors. When it opened in August 1899 the Opera House was considered the finest theater in the State. Leading New York, Boston, and Chicago theater companies graced the stage, while John Philip Sousa, Helen Keller, James O'Neill, and Tom Mix (who appeared with his horse) were a few of the many individuals who entertained Barre audiences. Opera was quite popular with Barre's Italian population, several of whom formed their own company and performed Italian operas on the Barre stage. Unfortunately, the Opera House experienced a decline in use after World War I, after which it was mainly used to show motion pictures, and eventually closed in 1940 for a period of more than 40 years.

The Opera House reopened in 1982, although in need of much repair. It was renovated over the next decade, and in 1993 a grand reopening took place showcasing the theater and three nights of local talent. Many of the original interior details remain including the original balcony and ornamented boxes, proscenium arch, art glass fanlight and pressed metal ceiling. The exterior of the yellow and red brick structure, like so many in Barre, features ornamental granite.

The Barre City Hall and Opera House is located at 12 North Main St. in Barre, 802-476-8188. It is open from 8:30am to 5:00pm. Ticket prices for performances vary.

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