In 1886, the corner of 8th and Davis Avenue bustled with activity when it housed the National Bank, a general merchandise store and a photo gallery. Its location across from Corning's Central Park overlooked the rest of the business district. Then a fire swept through the core of the business district and destroyed the bank building as well as a good portion of the businesses south of 8th Street. The site then sat empty for five years. Recognizing the need for adequate venues for entertainment, local businessman, Frederick Charles Reese, dedicated himself to providing the community with an opera house. In 1901, he chose the location and built in 1902. The building incorporated remnants of its burned out predecessor. Using the footprint of the National Bank, the new building had a raised basement and a cut-corner entrance. A commercial establishment was to occupy the first floor, while the upper story was intended for the Opera House. The Corning Opera House functioned solely as a live stage theater until at least 1914. By 1921, it had become a movie theater with occasional live performances. The last known production staged at the Opera House was Blue Heaven directed by Milo Green in 1934. Ticket prices were typical of the region and time, 25, 35 and 50 cents. The 724-seat house had a proscenium arch, a 28-foot stage, wing and drop scenery and was illuminated by electricity.
ACT II ~ Restoration
In 2000 a group of dreamers created a restoration committee. Throughout the years many bake sales, soup suppers, and grants raised funds toward the lofty goal. In 2006 the windows were restored and the roof sealed to stop leakages. The elevator from the first floor to the second floor was installed in 2009. Other progress was made in reinforcing the basement and leveling the first floor with gypcrete. We reached $500,000 in restoration progress. On August 16, 2010, we received a $1.5 million Main Street Iowa I-Jobs grant. The restoration project total of $3.5 million dollars resulted in improvements in: a new roof; geothermal heating & cooling installation; auditorium tin ceiling restored to original colors and hand painted; drywall installed in the annex dressing rooms, main floor offices and meeting rooms, and the grand auditorium; hard wood floors stripped and restained; new doors; repaired windows and added trim; walls painted; installed audio/video/lighting equipment; and carpet and tile flooring laid. June 2012 found the "grand lady" ready.
ACT III ~ Ready
The Grand Opening was April 5 & 6, 2012, featuring the Ron Cooley Trio with Jeff Millhollin, a local attorney who wrote several songs and was accompanied by Omaha musicians. The building is available for rentals, movies, concerts, musicals, or whatever you can dream.
Vision for Restoration
1993 - National Register of Historic Places 2000 - Restoration Committee Formed 2003 - 501(c)3 status 2006 - Windows replaced to meet historical guidelines 2009 - Elevator installed 2010 - Rebuilt stairs, gypcrete 1st floor, rooms framed in; Receive I-Jobs Main Street $1.5 million grant 2011 - Restoration of roof, installation of geothermal heating & cooling, Tin Ceiling restored, new sidewalk, paint outside 2012 - Grand Opening