Scott Opera House
Chances are you have driven down Fairmount’s Main street. You may have noticed a blue NAPA store and what seems like several run down buildings. Overhead the NAPA store sits the Scott’s Opera House. A building whose history and becoming was in part due to a man who was larger than life it. The long and interesting story of the opera house doesn’t begin with its construction. It’s story starts long before that. To even begin to understand the history of the Scott Opera House you must understand the creator himself. In fact you may even say this about Fairmount itself.
The story really begins in January 21, 1846 with the birth of Levi Scott (Bal 326). It could be said that Scott was a Jack-of-all-trades. When he was a mere 17 years old he enlisted and served in the One Hundred and Eighteenth Indiana Volunteer Infantry. (Bal 326) After he got out of the service he pursued several different business opportunities. In fact, the name of Levi Scott can still be seen today on buildings along main street.(Scot). One could say that it was Levi’s other businesses, which lead to the building of the Opera House. Such ventures as the Fairmount Bank, which was established in 1882, really paved the way to the of the Opera House.(His 574) Scott also saw success in holding stock of the in the Fairmount Mining Company.(Bal 305)
Fairmount was seeing successful times. Scott built the Opera House in order to enhance the cultural resources of the rapidly growing town. (Scot) So it was that in 1884 the Scott opera house was built at 116 south main-street (Scot). Yet the buildings location was not the only thing it had going for it. It was designed with a commodious stage, scenery, and all the necessary equipment to accommodate the best theatrical troupes, which were touring towns and cities giving performances.(Bal 326) In an 1890’s account the Fairmount news praised the facility, as “one of the nicest and best arranged to be found in any place.”(Sco)
In those days the Opera was often a comedy theater production with a band or orchestra accompaniment.(Scot) However the opera house played a host to a wide variety of cultural events. Such as gatherings for churches, holiday celebrations, and even such occasions as performances by the renowned, poet, James Whitcomb Riley. (Sco) It is hard to see how such a run down building now, could have, back then served as such a great cultural center. Yet many changes have happened to the opera house since its “glory days.” Its times are over where it crams nearly 600 people in for a performance. Years ago the stage and seats were removed.(Sco) Along with the removal of the stage and seats, a divider was put up separating it into two.(Sco)
There is yet another twist in the story of the Scott’s Opera House. There have been some strange occurrences, which have brought a lot of attention to the opera house. Attention that may very well save the historical building. Some will try to explain it as freak accidents. Yet may it be that there is someone who doesn’t want us to let this historic building get lost in the cobwebs?
For the past few years Judy Cowling, President of Historic Fairmount, has been renting the building out to local bands to practice. Cowling starting hearing of stories and was skeptical.(Sho) To prove her point she decided to stay, with some of the kids, for an evening.(Sho) She ended up trapped in a room behind a door that had been unlocked when she went in but strangely became locked when she went in.(Sho) Yet these are not the only strange happenings that go inside the Opera House. Other such reporting includes lights being turned on/off, objects moving, unexplained sightings (Sho)
Ghosts or no ghosts these sightings have brought attention back to the Opera. Attention could bring the funds needed to carry through with the renovations. Even though there is not enough money to carry out such renovations, there has recently been great interest shown by the community to fix up the old Opera House. Even a firm was hired to perform a feasibility study to fix up the opera.(Wri)
The history of Scott’s Opera House is a long and rich one. With efforts from the Historic Fairmount Society and other individuals the Scott’s Opera House has a chance of being restored to its former glory. Hopefully the history of the Scott’s Opera House will continue to be a long and rich one.
- Baldwin, Edgar. MAKING OF A TOWN, FAIRMONT TOWNSHIP. : Edgar Baldwin Printing Company,
- History Of Grant County, Indiana. Chicago: Brant and Fuller, .
- "Scott Opera House." Historic Fairmount INC.. 03 Jan. 2004 http://www.merylstreeponline.net/JD_SOH.html
- Shouse, Cathy. "Local opera house has its own phantom." Chronicle Tribune 6 7 03: A2.
- Wright, Wende. "Scott Opera House To Receive Makeover." Chronicle Tribune 3 13 99: .
Submitted by Jordon Dunham on January 1, 2003 for Mr. Munn's AP U.S. History class at Marion High School