Exterior after renovation
Exterior before renovation
Oshkosh Grand Opera House
100 High Avenue, Oshkosh, Winnebago County
Architect: William Waters
Date of construction: 1883
Oshkosh's Grand Opera House opened to the public on August 9, 1883. Designed by prolific local architect, William Waters, the theater was constructed with all the lavishness for which the period was noted. Originally planned with a floor seating capacity of 921, over 1200 could be accommodated with additional chairs and jump seats which folded out from the walls.
The theater attracted acts from around the country, including operas and Broadway musicals, and, later, Vaudeville acts. Visiting performers included John Phillip Sousa, Mark Twain and Sarah Bernhardt. Many performers commented on the theater's superior acoustics.
By the late 1940s, as motion pictures replace live performance, the opera house began showing second-run movies. Over the years, alterations to both the fašade and the interior destroyed or covered up historic details. The main entrance was closed, and the front doors were moved to the corner of the building.
Despite its decline in appearance and status, the Grand remained an important historic landmark for the residents of Oshkosh. In November of 1980, two-thirds of the City's voters answered yes to a referendum: "Should the City of Oshkosh acquire, restore and engage in the operation of the Grand Opera House?" Work on the building's renovation began in late 1982. After nearly four years and an expenditure of approximately $3.5 million, the opera house was rededicated on 27 September 1986. Today, the theater is noted for its fine performance series of both local and international productions, and serves the community in a similar capacity for which it was originally intended.
It is open to the public for performances and events.