Hill Opera House

 

From The Colon Express newspaper, August 11, 1981: “Hill Opera House is no longer in use, but on center stage are the memories of many performers.

Located on State Street on the second and third floor above Citizens State Bank, the opera house was a popular stopping place for companies traveling between Chicago and Detroit.

Local resident Charles Williams remembers 1912, when he was in his teens and he and friends peddled handbills to local stores. The handbills described actors and told the price.

In turn, they earned their admission. Side balcony seats cost 25 cents; front balcony, 50 cents; and the main floor, 75 cents and $1. The $1 fee guaranteed soft plush seats roped off with a brass railing. Ross Lewis was ticket taker.

“I always sat in the balcony.” Williams said with a chuckle. “I never could afford to sit in the section reserved for the rich people.”

Harry Blackstone Sr. often tried out his acts at the opera house before taking them on the road. Another company performing there included Kempton Comedy Kompany, which contained several local residents.

“I always had a passion for live acting,” Williams related, “I remember the play ‘Rip Van Winkle’ and “Trail of the Lonesome Pine.’

“One thing that always fascinated me was the curtain on the stage that had all the advertisements from local merchants.”

Williams said high school shows and minstrel shows also were performed.

He remembers Memorial Day in particular.

“The street was then a dirt road and the fourth and fifth graders were dressed in their best attire. We walked from the elementary school, which was then the old high school on State Street, to Lakeside Cemetery on Farrand Road (about four miles round trip).

“Upon returning to the village, we went to the Hill Opera House where we sat for 45 minutes listening to the Memorial Day address.

Williams said he remembers another day at the opera house. “My graduation in 1925 was held in the opera house,” he said. Williams was salutatorian and gave the speech.

Exercises were conducted there until the new high school was built and the ceremony was transferred to that location on Dallas Street.”

 

The Hill Opera House was destroyed by fire in 2006.