Friday, August 12, 2016

The Newberry Opera House

Inside the Newberry Opera House
By Laurie Epps

When traveling to our state capital of Columbia, South Carolina, I'd had so much fun in Pickens that I decided to make a history stop on the way back home. As a former performer myself, the Newberry Opera House was a logical choice. I thought this stop would merely be to get hours, and return to tour it. I was mistaken, and cheerfully a docent named Linda greeted me when I opened the door. Since my journey was due to an interview, I was dressed for the occasion, so I figured, why not?

Dress -- Catherine's Plus Sizes
Shoes -- Rack Room Shoes
Watch, Earrings, & Purse -- New York & Co.
The Newberry Opera House

A Brief History

Originally built in 1881, the Newberry Opera House has undergone extensive renovations recently. Designed by C.L. Newman the original cost to build the structure amounted to $30,000 U.S. currency. Inspiration for its architecture was derived from the French Gothic style and even from its inception, meant to dazzle locals with top notch shows. However, due to the time period the structure didn't exist for entertainment alone. The Newberry Opera House also housed the sheriff office, the local jail, and the seat of government for the city of Newberry.

Restored to its former glory thanks to a $5.5 million dollar grant, the opera house is now a functioning and pivotal part of the community. With the ability to seat 426 persons, it's still a dynamic part of the town of Newberry Community.

To learn more about the Newberry Opera House, you can visit this website:

Signs of the Past

While visiting the opera house, the docent or "ambassador" showed me reminders throughout the opera house that show all that it's endured through the years. For example, near the entrance, you can still see where the contractors cut out groves on the doorways to allow for the wheels of carriages to be parked inside (especially since it also was a carriage house and/or fire department at different times).

These signs were evident during my tour, and I simply couldn't fit every single example in. However, when I first entered the building, I was quite taken with the light fixtures, and once on my tour later on, I learned that they were made to look like the original time period, and were one of the many examples of restoration efforts.

Penelope's Chair
Ghost Story

Like so many other historical sites, Newberry Opera House boasts of its own resident ghost named Penelope. I hope I do Penelope's story justice. Penelope had a bit of a fling with a local man known as the professor. After shows, he would escort Penelope out for a soda, or the ice cream fountain. However, Penelope's father was a local judge, and being a small town, he learned of the love affair. Penelope told her family that she was going to stay with a girlfriend the night of her last show. Her professor had promised to take her away from all of this, and the couple had intended to elope. Not on her fathers watch. All that is known after this point is that after a conversation with her father, her darling professor never showed up. Even in death, Penelope is still waiting in the balcony for her lover.

Visitor Information:

To visit the Newberry Opera House simply go to:
1201 McKibben Street
Newberry, SC 29108

They offer free guided tours, and I highly recommend taking one. My ambassador was pleasant, cheerful, and engaging.

Since it's a working theater as well, they have a number of fabulous performances from Willie Nelson to the Moscow Ballet (depending on the season). To see the current season schedule, click here.

Laurie Epps is featured in dozens of news articles, and literary journals both on and off the web. Laurie is also included in a number of short story anthologies, and does some ghostwriting for prominent professionals nationwide. Laurie is also active in a number of writer support groups and networks with writers from all over the country.

Laurie is a single mom with two grown daughters, and a little one still at home. Laurie has a passion for art, literature, history, museums, and the theater. A self-proclaimed fashionista, Laurie finds beauty in everything. When not teaching or writing, Laurie gets in as much beach time as her budget will allow, and spends her leisure time with family or hiking. This particular column, gives Laurie an excuse to indulge in the past times she loves.

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