Livingston Arts Council
Howell Opera House
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- National Register
- Historic Restoration
- May 2007
Master-planning and Phase I construction provided important first steps in the planned transformation of the original Opera House in Howell into a modernized version of what Opera House patrons would have experienced in the 1800s.
The curtain came down on the stage of the historic Howell Opera House Theater in 1924, bringing to an end nearly 45 years of entertainment. From opening day on December 30th, 1881 until 1924, people would come from miles around to sit in the theater (above what was Gill-Roy’s Hardware) to see jugglers and acrobats, hear speeches from the likes of presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan and industrialist Henry Ford, and see productions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Mikado” and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”.
The 1,000 seat theater, which cost $11,000 in 1880 to build, was a central part of Livingston County’s life and did double duty as a civic auditorium for events like high school graduations. Justice was also administered when in 1889 the Opera House served as a temporary home for the Livingston County Circuit Court.
The project began with a review of a 2001 development plan report and a series of Christman-led quality, cost and modeling workshops to assist the client in identifying and balancing its needs, priorities and cost constraints. The series of workshops helped determine a detailed project scope and schedule for the building’s restoration.
Since its construction in the 1870s, ownership of the Opera House changed along with community demand. Until recently, the building had existed as a local hardware store. Recently, the Livingston Arts Council purchased the Opera House with plans to transform it into a new multi-purpose community arts and cultural center intended to host professional musical acts, lectures and plays.