The opulent and historic Grand Opera House has been a landmark for the residents of Wilmington and the surrounding region for more than 135 years. Opened in 1871 as a home for the Grand Lodge of the Masons for the lordly sum of $100,000, The Grand ha … show more
The opulent and historic Grand Opera House has been a landmark for the residents of Wilmington and the surrounding region for more than 135 years. Opened in 1871 as a home for the Grand Lodge of the Masons for the lordly sum of $100,000, The Grand has played host to thousands of renowned entertainers and performing artists over the years, including Ethel Barrymore, Buffalo Bill Cody, John Philip Sousa, political cartoonist Thomas Nast, and the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University.
In 1909, The Grand was briefly converted into a regular stop on the vaudeville circuit and then transitioned into a movie theater. Eclipsed by the more modernly lavish and larger Aldine next door, The Grand was eventually reduced to screening second-run horror films and Westerns. The building was allowed to fall into decline and sadly closed its doors in 1967.
On December 22, 1971, the hundredth anniversary of its original grand opening, The Grand Opera House was again packed with people and excitement, as plans were unveiled to renovate the theater to its former splendor.
Over the next few years, a thoughtful and complete restoration was undertaken. The Grand was rededicated on February 1, 1973, and began again to present the finest performing artists from around the world. Delaware historian, Carol Hoffecker, described the project as "a Cinderella story, the most spectacularly successful preservation effort in Wilmington's history."
Next door, the Aldine Theater, once The Grand's rival, had fallen on similar hard times. Closed in 1970, most of the building was razed in 1992. With the help of friends and philanthropists, The Grand acquired the lots and opened a companion theater building in 2000. The baby grand, a cozy 300-seat proscenium theater, occupies the first floor, with offices, rehearsal rooms and teaching spaces extending several floors above.
The Grand and baby grand are beehives of artistic activity. The Grand presents more than 75 shows each season, ranging...