“We are in front of the beautiful Enosburg Falls Opera House, one of the oldest existing opera houses in the state of Vermont,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “We’re going to go inside and talk to Suzi Hull-Casavant, who’s president of the Friends of the Opera House, and she’s going to tell us about its history and its ongoing use as a performing center today.”
“Well, it got its start (as a gift) from (the Dr. B.J. Kendall Company), the (makers of the) Spavin Cure (patent medicine), and they built it in 1892 for $10,000,” Hull-Casavant said. “John Philip Sousa performed on the stage here. Traveling shows — we’ve found playbills of many of those that would do the circuit, and there wasn’t TV. There wasn’t those other forms of entertainment, so I’m sure they’d pack the house whenever anything was here because it provided something from the outside world to the local people here.”
“Suzi, you’ve also told us a little bit, too, that besides theatrical and musical entertainment, the hardwood floor we’re standing on top of right now has played host to some kinds of athletic events,” Mike Hoey said.
“Athletic events — basketball, I know, was played here; my father talks about that,” Hull-Casavant replied. “We, in our more current times, have even had wrestling. We just finished a children’s theater camp which was very well-received. We had over 30 kids here.”
“(There’s a) big tower on the outside, (and there are) big circles in the tower,” Perkins noted. “Were there clocks there to begin with?”
“From what research we can see, no,” Hull-Casavant answered. “We can only presume that it was built with the anticipation of a clock at some point, but there is not a clock. I don’t foresee a clock (ever getting installed).”
“The building itself, of course, is all wood, so that takes a lot of upkeep,” Perkins observed. “Can you tell us a bit about the community organization that supports it and some of the work that you put into this building?”
“In the 1990s, there was a full renovation,” Hull-Casavant said. “Since then, constantly, there’s maintenance. The beautiful stained-glass windows right now have gone through a (National Park Service) Bruhn (Historic Preservation) Grant and we’re getting those all restored, as needs to be done every now and then on a 130-year-old building. Painting is always an issue.
“The Friends of the Opera House is a non-profit that (resides) in the building and (tries) to be a steward to the building, and our town Selectboard oversees that operation,” she continued. “It was gifted to (the Town of Enosburgh and the Village of Enosburg Falls), so we have working agreements with them and the general fund of the town helps do a lot of the maintenance that needs to be done every year, so we’re very fortunate. A lot of volunteerism, private donations — we’ve been very well-supported.”
Hoey asked, “In case anyone might want to learn more about the opera house and its history beyond what they might see and hear here, how can they learn it?”
“Well, we do have a website, and there’s a History tab,” Hull-Casavant said. “There’s a Donate tab; there’s an Events tab. We also have our 130-year celebration coming up in the fall, which will be our main fundraiser; we try to do a fundraiser every year.”