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Calvin Opera House

2015 Photo from the Adam Martin collection
311 Elm St
Washington MO

Closed Live Theatre
Record #7545  
 Opened: September 5, 1909
 Closed: Yes (date unknown)
 Current Use:
Architect(s): Boller Bros
Architectural Style(s):
National Register:
Current Organ: none
 Also Known As: Calvin Theater
 Previously operated by: Commonwealth Theatres

Information for this tour was contributed by Darren Snow.

OPENED: 9/5/09.

Though the first movie seen in Washington was exhibited on 2/1/08 in the Hibbeler Building, the Calvin wasn't far behind. It showed its first flick on 9/17/09, after two inaugural weeks of live entertainment. The facility was designed by E.C. Little, who had been the architectural supervisor at the erection of the Missouri State Building at the 1904 World's Fair. The 900-seat theatre was almost called the Washington Opera House; other names considered included the Franklin, the Thalia, and the Criterion.

The Calvin has been through a lot in its many years of business. One episode that stands out is the big silents-vs.-talkies vote that took place on May 28, 1929. Believe it or not, there was a very vocal contingent which insisted that movies with sound would be impractical and difficult to follow -- so, even though talkies won the popular vote, George Calvin humored the dissenters by showing a silent film every Friday night.

The Commonwealth chain ran the Calvin from the 1930s until 1983, when it was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. George McLean of Gerald, MO, who also owned the theatre in Sullivan. They had plans to restore the theatre to its early opera-house appearance, and met with some measure of success.

The theatre's present owner -- who also lives upstairs -- has been continuing the Calvin's popular bluegrass concert series, as well as planning movie screenings and appearances by popular bands from St. Louis. Unlike some patrons of the arts, he's likely to keep his finger firmly on the pulse of the local youth--he also plays drums in a punk-rock band. Unfortunately, he's decided he's got too many irons in the fire, and he's looking for someone to buy the Calvin.

 Photos remain the property of the Member and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the Member.

January 2015 photos from the Adam Martin collection.

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Photos from the Darren Snow collection.

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Last featured 2002-12-27. Last edited 5/26/2016.

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