Train’s Opera House construction started in 1866, and was built by Civil War Colonel H.H. Vinton for local resident Jarvis Train. The Opera House was located at 202-208 West Main Street on the south side of Main Street. The three story building not only housed the Opera House on the third floor, but also had retail space on the first floor and a hotel on the second. The Opera House was used to entertain and host the community.
National acts were booked to perform at the Opera House. In 1888, the Kickapoo native people were touring the country, offering free shows, stopped at the Opera House. Popular national act “A Barrel of Money” came to Lowell in 1895, with actor Danny Mann amazing the community and the reviewers. In 1907, Thomas Brooks Fletcher brought his lecture “Martyrdom of Fools” to Lowell, drawing a very large crowd. He was said to drive home his points with “sledge hammer force.”
The Opera House also played host to many local events. In October of 1890, the businessmen of Lowell held a carnival at the Opera House. The newspaper reported it was a huge success. The stage event included participants who were masked and when the curtain raise it was a “picture of beauty and color that greeted the audience. The costumes were unique, tasty and elegant.” That’s quite a combination of descriptions! In 1902, it was reported that the high school athletic entertainment held at the opera house included over 70 entries of kids who had practiced faithfully. The orchestra provided music for the event.
Sometimes major political events were held at the Opera House. With the advantageous location, so close to the Railroad Depot, it was perfect for a candidate coming to the area by private train. In 1902, Congressman William Alden Smith held a campaign meeting at the Opera House. He brought in the Letter Carrier’s band and Young Men’s Republican Marching Club to add entertainment. The event was said to be a “rousing jollification.” Senator Smith went on to fame by leading the investigation into the sinking of the Titanic.
The Opera House saw many dances in its lifetime. Sometimes they were just advertised as “Dance at Train’s Opera house - good music and dancing begins at 7:30 p.m.” Sometimes, the dances were hosted by clubs, such as the “Vergennes Dancing Club” inviting all to come to their event. Another use by the community was for meetings and reunions for groups, such as “The Old Residents Association of the Grand River Valley.” They met around the area and in 1907 their 28th annual meeting was held right here in Lowell, at the Opera House.
A fire devastated and gutted the Opera House in 1909. Significant repairs were needed. During the time of construction, events continued to be held, but the location was changed to the Methodist Church. The location change was successful and the Opera acts went on as planned. In fact, Lowell was wowed by a successful night of entertainment by a company of native Hawaiians, both singers and instrumental artists. Along with the music, Frank Bean, expert stereoptican operator, showed scenes from the islands, the students’ home.
By the 1940’s, the Opera House was a memory. It was a sweet memory as Lowell citizens reflected on the joy of thinking of climbing the long flights of stairs to the Opera House where most of the town’s entertainment took place. The building has housed many businesses since then including an antique mall and clothing stores.