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A Brief History of the Fife Opera House ...

Construction of the David Fife Opera House began in 1898 and was completed in 1901. Fife operated a hardware store on the ground floor .

Seating was available for several hundred guests in the opera house which measured 55 feet wide and 70 feet deep. A raked floor filled with upholstered, red leather theater seats rising toward the back guaranteed every ticket holder a good view of the stage.

Audiences were cooled by electric fans in summer and warmed by a coal furnace in fall and winter. Two original ceiling fixtures include a mirrored collar to reflect the glow of high wattage light bulbs. Single lights spaced at two foot intervals circle the house.

The stage was located at the west end of the large room. It's opening measures 25 feet wide and 15 feet tall and it is circled by 25 lights. A rolled canvas fire curtain, hand painted by artists from the Chicago company of Sosman and Landes, depicts a Venice canal scence. Side and top panels depict beautiful draperies surrounding a peaceful, tree-lined river. Recently, additional painted scenes have been discovered including gardens, waterfalls, and a turn of the century street scene.

Fife's prudish mother, displeased with one of the five interior scene panels which featured cherubs, demanded the artists return to cover their nakedness.

It is said that lights all over town dimmed as David Fife threw the switches illuminating his fabulous opera house on opening night.

Shows included band concerts, minstrel shows, stock traveling shows, comedies, a lyceum series, and more.

 

 


Treasures of the Fife
a more in depth look at the original scenery used in the theater.
Read more >>>

Final production, 1912 ...View larger.


UNCOVERING HISTORY


Fire curtain unrolled for the first time in more than 50 years. (more photos)


Marty Fisher and Shawn Boewe of Hardwood Floor Specialties, Parkersburg, work to remove the old tile floor of the Fife Opera House to expose the older wooden floor. The project is part of the Palestine Preservation Projects Society’s efforts to preserve the old building. The $17,000 project included removing the old tile and plywood subfloor to expose the original hardwood floor. The original floor was then sanded, repaired and coated with a polyurethane satin finish.
                   (Daily News, Tom Compton photo)

 


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