SAN LUIS VALLEY — From about 1870 until 1920, historians say entertainment and civic events in most of the cities and towns of Colorado were centered in what were called “opera houses.”
An estimated 150 “opera houses” were built in Colorado between 1860 and 1920.
As tastes in entertainment changed, however, many of the opera houses fell into disrepair and were demolished.
Four of 46 “survivors” remain in the San Luis Valley, one in Manassa, another in Antonito, yet another in Monte Vista and the fourth in Center.
In Manassa, the Opera House was built in 1907 and is still identified as such, with efforts underway to preserve it and emphasize its history.
On Fourth Street west of the Mormon Church, it serves as a community center for the Manassa and surrounding communities. It was restored in 1988 but doesn’t reflect its history as an opera house.
Randy Perea is working on the history project and can be contacted at 298-2576.
The Antonito Opera House, built in 1911, is better known as the Golden Nugget Night Club and sits quietly on Antonito’s main street.
Antonito Opera House, Antonito Amusement Co props, J D Frazey mgr.” is a listing in the 1911 Gazetteer Publishing Company’s Business Directory for Antonito. The Feb 3, 1911, issue of the Alamosa Journal has an item mentioning a dance at the Antonito Opera House.
The Broadway Opera House is on Broadway, at southwest corner of Second Avenue. An item in the Creede Candle, 29 June 1894, about a Masonic convention there, dates the building as pre-1894. The building was renovated in the 1930s and became a funeral home.
An item in the San Juan Prospector of Del Norte for Dec.17, 1910, mentions a meeting held at the Center Opera House. It is listed in F. A. McKinney’s San Luis Valley City Directory 1913-1914 as being in the Bank Block, N. C. Gilbreath manager. In addition to managing the opera house, Newton C. Gilbreath is listed as president and manager of the Center Mercantile Co., suggesting that the lower floor was the business that supported the second floor opera house. Located on the southwest corner of Worth and 3rd, the lower floor of this two-story building is a store. The opera house section is closed and not in use.