History

 
The Grand Ledge Opera House is a tribute to a town embracing its past while moving into the future. The building originally opened in 1884, when Grand Ledge was a thriving resort town. Tourists from throughout the Midwest were drawn to the area's natural beauty and bountiful entertainment.  Located on the banks of the Grand River it was first known as Riverside Roller Rink. Later it became Blake's Opera House, a home to theatrical troupes, athletic events and school graduations.  In 1909, the building became Sackett's Opera House, then briefly a movie theater. In the late 1920's it was converted to a furniture store.  Decades later the Mapes family of Sunfield donated the building and property to the Grand Ledge Area Historical Society. The Opera House was reborn in 1993 after careful restoration accomplished with private donations and the joint effort of the Historical Society and the Grand Ledge Area Chamber of Commerce. Citizens and businesses in Grand Ledge donated their time and money for the renovation because they realized the importance this community building had in the past and could have again. This tradition continues today as the money to operate and maintain the Opera House comes from private citizens, local businesses and rental fees.


The committee that spearheaded the renovation included members who hoped that the finished project would be as historically accurate as possible. The color of the paint used on the Opera House was the topic of much discussion., Many in the community were surprised by the gold color found under many layers of paint used on the building. Discussion centered on whether the color, while historically accurate, was the color of choice from years before; perhaps it was simply the color of paint donated at the time; perhaps a more "modern" color scheme should be chosen. Twenty years later, the golden color with the distincive dark green and maroon trim seems perfect for a city landmark nestled next to the Grand River with the beautiful Commons gardens and trees surrounding it.

At the same time that the Opera House was renovated, the elegant Michigan Theater building in Lansing was converted from a theater and shopping arcade into an office building. A group of Lansing area musicians were looking for a home for the Barton pipe organ which had been in the theater since its beginning. The Grand Ledge Opera House became that home. The organ was restored to its original glory by Lansing Thetare Organ, Inc. This dedicated group presents organ concerts several times each year and includes a silent film with live organ accompaniment harking back to its origins. For more information on the historic organ and the upcoming schedule of concerts, please visit www.lto-pops.org


The Opera House is not owned or operated by the City of Grand Ledge nor are the gazebo or grounds a city responsibility. The Opera House is a non-profit organization overseen by a seven member community board. The maintenance of the building and grounds are paid for by rental fees and the contributions of individuals and businesses through membership in the Friends of the Opera House, auxiliary members through the Grand Ledge Chamber of Commerce and underwriting of specific community programs. 


For more information on the history of the Grand Ledge Opera House and the renovation process, please visit the Grand Ledge Area Historical Society website at www.gdledgehistsoc.org
 

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