Historic Opera House - Town of Gravenhurst

Historic Opera House

Gravenhurst's Opera House, which dates to 1901, sits on the former site of the first Central Public School. The Central Public School was a two storey frame building which was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1887, leaving an empty lot. A second fire destroyed the then Town Hall and, ironically, Fire Station in 1897. Council decided to construct a replacement Town Hall combined with an Opera House on Muskoka Road, where the building still stands. This time, the multi-purpose building would be a more fire resistant brick structure which cost a bit over $5,000.  That amount was deemed by some an extravagance, earning the building the nickname of "Mickle's Folly", after Charles Mickle who was the presiding mayor. The architectural style chosen is somewhat eclectic, with Gothic Revival features such as the tower and dormers in addition to Romanesque features as evidenced by round arched windows. The design of the Opera House is credited to architect J. Francis Brown of Toronto. The building has functioned as administrative offices for the Town, as magistrates' courts, but now it is primarily a venue for cultural events.  The likes of Donald Sutherland, Peter Paul and Mary, Michael Burgess and Gordon Lightfoot have graced its stage. It was designated a heritage structure by the Town in 1983. Heritage Square and the cenotaph are located out front.

The doors to the Gravenhurst Opera House officially opened on March 12th, 1901. In the 100 years ensuing, the pricey indulgence has conservatively witnessed over 6 million patrons crossing its threshold; that is more people than the entire population of Canada in 1901. This venerable town jewel has the distinction of being Gravenhurst's most-trod-upon public building, perhaps even Muskoka's. In retrospect, those millions of footsteps would suggest, even to last century's most grizzled skeptics, a demonstrable need for the structure. "Mickle's Folly" has endured to prove itself Mickle's Vision.