BALTIMORE – After years of hard work and fundraising the Victoria Opera House will officially open to the public from 1 – 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18. A tour and open house at Fairfield County’s only remaining opera house will be part of a 10-day statewide effort to showcase the impact of taking care of old spaces and places.
Many changes have taken place since the Victoria Opera House (101 S. Main St., Baltimore) closed its doors 40 years ago, and these changes will be on display Sunday afternoon. The building has housed Village of Baltimore offices on the basement level for years.
The “Preview Open House” at the Victoria runs from 1 to 4 p.m. The Canal Strings will perform from 1-2 p.m., and cellist Mary Brandal will perform from 2-4 p.m., along with a short recital for one of her local Baltimore students.
The entertainment will continue while members of the Baltimore Downtown Restoration Committee give guided tours of the Opera House and third floor ballroom. Visitors may inquire about the history and learn about the next phases of opera house restoration. The public will be able to purchase 50:50 raffle tickets and Victoria Opera House glassware will be available for sale. Free refreshments will be offered to guests touring the opera house.
“We’ve got it to the point where we can start having performances,” said Judith Cosgray, Baltimore Downtown Restoration Committee director. She said the restoration project is being completed in phases, and still has a long way to go before it’s complete. “We’re hoping within 10 years the entire project will be done,” Cosgray said.
Cosgray said the restoration committee would like to build an addition onto the opera house that would have restrooms, an elevator, HVAC equipment, and classrooms for art students. “We want it to be a full community center, centering on the arts,” she said.
Cosgray said the committee would also like to build a new kitchen on the third floor large enough to service community gatherings and other events. The existing kitchen, she said, is far too small.
Cosgray said it was really important to get the restoration work to the point where the opera house could host performances. She said the Baltimore Downtown Restoration Committee has actively been fundraising since 2011 to have funds available to meet matching fund requirements for grants..Those “matching fund” requirements can represent as much as 50 percent of a grant and often must be in hand before the grant is awarded or released.
That time has come, and revenue from performances will help generate “matching fund” money. Thus far, the Baltimore Downtown Restoration Committee has invested over $45,000 this year alone toward the restoration of the opera house.
A new acquisition is the pipe organ from the Palace Theater in Lancaster. The Palace is long gone, but thanks to the City of Lancaster, the pipe organ has a new home at the opera house. There will be a small gift shop set up, where all proceeds will go toward the opera house.
Sunday’s opening is part of Ohio Open Doors, a project of the Ohio History Connection, that marks the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. The Act created the legal framework and incentives to preserve historic buildings, landscapes and archaeology. From Sept. 9 to 18, some of the historic buildings and landmarks in Ohio that owe their revival to provisions in NHPA will host special programs and tours so the public can get a clearer understanding of how preservation groups are using remnants from the past to build better local communities now and for the future. For more information visit ohiohistory.org