Coal and Culture: Opera Houses in Appalachia by William Faricy Condee

By William Faricy Condee

A severe appreciation of the opera condominium within the coal-mining sector of Appalachia from the mid 1860s to the early Thirties, Coal and tradition demonstrates that those have been multipurpose amenities that have been used for touring theater, concert events, spiritual occasions, lectures, commencements, boxing fits, advantages, union conferences, and - if the auditorium had a flat flooring - skating and basketball.

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Berman. ”27 The prominent position of the opera house in the town landscape is quite evident in the opera houses studied here. Murphy’s Theatre (), in Pithole, Pennsylvania, was, at three stories tall, the largest building in town,28 and the Fisher Opera House () in Zaleski, Ohio, was—and still is—the tallest building in Vinton County. 30 The Benham Theater (Kentucky, ) was on the town square, along with the school, church, and company store.

A large, impressive opera house built by and for the local fire department. Reprinted with permission of Mason County Museum, Maysville, Kentucky. In Warren, Pennsylvania, the Library Theatre () was a gift to the town from Thomas Struthers, a local industrialist, to provide income to support the library. Both spaces would enrich the cultural life of the town, with the theater providing income to support the library. Building an opera house also provided the developer with good local press. The prime advocate for the opera house in Elkins, West Virginia (), was given credit in a town history eight years after the opera house had opened: “Mr.

The focus is on how people use “ordinary” landscapes, such as the 44 THE OPERA HOUSE IN CONTEXT Cotrill’s Opera House, Thomas, West Virginia (1902), as it appears today under restoration. The opera house is the tall building left of center, blending into the street facade. This is a typical mining town street, as it snakes between a stream and a steep hill. Photo by author. ”8 Lewis is adamant on this point: “Most items in the human landscape are no more and no less important than other items—in terms of their role as clues to culture.

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