The property where the theatre stands was first deeded to the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1876. In July of l896, Angus A. McDonald (Red Mac) and his wife, JoAnna, acquired the land and built the two story McDonald Opera House. It was equipped with a granite foundation, full sod basement, dressing rooms beneath the south end and plumbing! The high loft above the east end was for scenery backdrops. A large auditorium with balcony, side boxes faced with wrought iron, and a spacious stage attracted large audiences. Many famous troupes performed on the stage as well as many not-so-famous, including minstrel shows, dog and pony acts, traveling players, magicians,(the center stage trap door still remains) contortionists, vaudeville acts, local talent, dance revues, class plays and graduations. Frank Horrigan bought the theatre in l9l9 and renamed it the Granada. The ornate boxes were taken out, in the name of acoustics, when new sound and projections machines were installed.
A variety of businesses have occupied parts of the building through the years; a soda pop bottling firm, The Philipsburg Commercial Club, a bank, Carmichael’s Livery Stable, and others.
The current owner, Tim and Claudette Dringle, while painstakingly restoring and renovating the entire building, produce live professional theatre throughout the summer.
While much of the restoration project has been behind the scenes, i.e. plumbing, electrical, utility projects, as pictured here, the stage and box seating had to be renovated to its original stance. The wrought iron work is still a project to be undertaken, however the orchestra pit has been opened and the box seating built back in place. The commitment by the Rocky Mountain Accordion Celebration to have a concert in the Opera House, brought out many volunteers to help with the auditorium restoration and painting. This event was followed closely by the production of live professional summer theatre which required dressing rooms, costume and prop storage, redoing restrooms, enlarging the concession area and a host of other internal projects to accommodate production and events.
The actors lodging area was a major undertaking both in time and expense, but much needed and greatly appreciated by visiting guests and performers.
In 2000, the theatre got its first coat of paint! Sponsored primarily by Columbia Paint, Blackfoot Telecommunications, ICM and the Flint Creek Valley Bank the project began by pressure washing the building. As you can see on the photo 100 years of dust, when washed away revealed the historic red brick that many buildings in Philipsburg are constructed from. Then the paint project began as the fires of 2000 burned. A few cinders were painted into the building, but the final result was stunning.
Thanks to a benefit by the Montana Actors Coalition, enough money was raised to buy roofing materials. Seven layers of old roofing had to be removed to make way for the new. Each spring we thankfully walk into a dry theatre and feel grateful to these wonderful Montana actors, singers and performers who helped us achieve this important goal. A new furnace has been installed pending some ducting left to be set in place, a milestone has been reached in making the theatre available for winter performances.
Cosmetic restoration in the interior of the theatre is presently on hold. Efforts are being concentrated on finishing the heating system, constructing back balconies for the housing and beginning soon the construction of a shop. Critical to production and storage, this current project will make a significant impact on the scale of productions offered at the Opera House. A larger sewing room is in construction and all going to schedule will be ready for use this year.
The Opera House Theatre Company, while housed in the oldest theatre in Montana, is the youngest theatre company. We are proud of our progress. Thanks to the endless efforts of Jonn Jorgensen, D. J. Gommels, vibrant and enthusiastic ensembles, community encouragement, donations of time, props, and materials and theatre supporters we are encouraged. As quoted in the Missoulian… “they just get better and better.”
Owners and producers, Tim and Claudette Dringle invite you to stop by the concession stand for a refreshing, creamy Italian
The lobby was remodeled in 1999 to accommodate larger handicapped accessible bathrooms. The concessions area was also expanded and a Latte machine put in. Whether you are looking for a snack, or would like to buy a souvenir T-shirt, coffee mug, or cap they would be delighted to serve you.
Photo courtesy of Craig M. Tanner
Photo courtesy of Craig M. Tanner
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 March 2009 02:38|