Blog Post

Very cool Lexington Opera House where Houdini, Al Jolson once performed

On a quick walking tour of Lexington, Kentucky, in June, Sweetums and I mostly saw buildings related to Mary Todd Lincoln, including her birthplace and homes of other family members (I’ll get those photos posted soon). But we also happened across the very intriguing-looking Lexington Opera House and wished we could see inside.

When I got home, I decided to do some research on the beautiful old building, located at 401 West Short Street in downtown Lexington.

It was built in 1886 after a fire destroyed the city’s old theater. The Opera House was designed by the Oscar Cobb, a renowned theater architect from Chicago. The htree-story building held 1,250 people.

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The Lexington Opera House in Kentucky was built in 1886. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)

The building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is currently used as a theater and an event venue operated by the Lexington Center Corporation.

According to LexingtonOperahouse.com, an early description of the ornate building said, “… every seat is cushioned and comfortable and 596 of them are elegantly upholstered with Turkey morocco and velvet, with hat racks and cane and umbrella holder, and a most ingenious arrangement by a spring in the back for assisting persons into their seats. There are 250 gaslights, 37 sets of scenery and a drop curtain. The frescoes are all gems, from the beautiful female figures made to appear life-size in the dome down to the smallest flower.”

During its early tenure as a live-performance venue, the Opera House hosted acts including Harry Houdini, Al Jolson, W.C. Fields, Will Rogers, Lillian Russell and Sarah Bernhardt. The last live performance held in 1926 and it was converted to movie house.

Over the years, it was saved from demolition numerous times before being restored to its original grandeur.

I also grabbed a few photos from the website to show you its history and interior, at the bottom of the photo gallery. Hopefully, we can return sometime to see a show.

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The side entrance of the Lexington Opera House in Kentucky. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
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The side entrance of the Opera House.
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The Lexington Opera House in Kentucky was built in 1886. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
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The Lexington Opera House in Kentucky was built in 1886. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
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The interior of one floor of the Opera House. (LexingtonOperaHouse.com)
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A concert at the Opera House. (LexingtonOperaHouse.com)
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The Lexington Opera House. (LexingtonOperaHouse.com)
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A photo of a wedding from the Lexington Opera House. (LexingtonOperahouse.com)
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A historic photo of the Lexington Opera House. (LexingtonOperahouse.com)

2 thoughts on “Very cool Lexington Opera House where Houdini, Al Jolson once performed”

  1. Thanks for your posts about interesting landmarks in Kentucky. We have family there, near Lexington. Next time we go there to visit, we’ll have to check these places out, both in Lexington and Elizabethtown.

    Like

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