The Birthplace of Canadian Summer Theatre
81 years ago, John Holden brought the first professional summer theatre company to Gravenhurst, truly making the Gravenhurst Opera House the birthplace of Canadian summer theatre. With actors such as Kate Reid, Ted Follows, Charmion King, Barbara Hamilton, Araby Lockhart and Donald Sutherland, the Opera House was a launching pad for many notable Canadians. Open year round, the Gravenhurst Opera House is located right in the heart of downtown and very proud that this long standing tradition continues, with over 100 performances of professional theatre, great concerts, stand-up comedy and more all summer long!
The Incredible History of The Gravenhurst Opera House
The Gravenhurst Opera House, one of Muskoka’s most adored buildings, celebrates its 114th year of operation this year. Originally built by Canadian architect John Francis Brown in 1901 for a cost of $12,000, this iconic building is a pleasant reminder of a bygone era in Gravenhurst, and a cultural landmark for theatre aficionados in Canada.
The pride of Gravenhurst has led an exciting past to say the least. When construction began in 1901, residents of Gravenhurst wondered about the need for an extravagant (and seemingly expensive) building that would combine an Opera House and the new Town Hall, when all the town needed was a new Town Hall.
All that scepticism would change come opening night, March 12, 1901, for the theatre’s first performance ‘Days of the Year’. The pure marvel of this grand building would win over the townspeople of Gravenhurst for the next twelve decades. The beloved Gravenhurst Opera House has faced possible closure twice in its lifetime, and both times, this historic gem was rescued by the adoring townspeople. In 1967, a town vote won with a 2/3rds majority, to maintain the Gravenhurst Opera House rather than tear it down and build a community centre. Again, in 1993, the town came to the rescue of the Grand Old Lady, raising the necessary funds for an extensive renovation that was required to keep the theatre alive in Gravenhurst. What was once considered to be [Mayor] Mickle’s Folly, has been praised as Mickle’s Vision for the ensuing 114 years, with over 6 million people through the front doors that can attest.
Over its lifetime, the Opera House has reigned over twenty Prime Ministers, saw the invention of the radio, TV, and now Facebook, and was even around for all thirteen Stanley Cup wins by the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is certain though, that as the world changes around it, the Gravenhurst Opera House has withstood the test of time and remains one of the most treasured pieces of history in Theatre, Gravenhurst, and Muskoka.