Boston Opera House

343 Huntington Avenue,
Boston, MA 02115

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rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on January 19, 2016 at 2:02 pm

There is a new book about Boston streetcars in the period 1950-1964 which contains many brilliant photos made from old color slides. There is a photo of an outbound trolley train on the Arborway line taken in front of the Boston Opera House. The right side of the facade shows, including the entrance to the second balcony at the right corner. There are 2 things that surprise me: the date of the photo, April 16 1958 and the fact that there is no demolition fence or barrier in place. At that time, I was in uptown Boston almost on a daily basis. In my trip log I noted “Jan. 13- Wreckers are on-site (at the Opera House)”; “Jan. 24 – Rear stage wall gone”; Feb. 3 (no notation). If the date on the photo is correct then it is amazing that the front of the theater was still intact as of April 16, 1958.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm

I have a Xerox copy of a 1909 seating chart for the Boston Opera House. I counted the fixed seating, and made an estimate of the number of chairs in the 78 boxes. (Some of the boxes had 4 chairs and some had 2 chairs). My results: Orchestra floor: 634; First Balcony: 842; Second Balcony: 708; Boxes:(estimated) 276. Total, 2,460 seats. This is close to the figure that Ed Burke posted above on 5-14-09. In addition, there were a total of 40-50 standing spaces high up in the 7th tier on each side.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 1, 2009 at 1:52 pm

A persistent old legend is that the Haskell Opera House in Derby Line VT/ Stanstead PQ is a one-sixth -size replica of the Boston Opera House. This is preposterous. I have seen photos of both the exterior and the interior of the Haskell and there is absolutely no resemblance at all. Moreover, the Haskell opened in 1904, 5 years before the Boston Opera House, so it could not possibly have been influenced by the latter. The Haskell also contains a public library and straddles the international boundary between Vermont and Quebec. It’s a very interesting building but it has no relationship with the old Boston Opera House.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 22, 2009 at 1:43 pm

There was a feature article “Ghost Opera” about the Boston Opera House in the Boston Sunday Globe, Nov. 8th. The occasion was the 100th birthday of the theater, which opened in November 1909. There were 2 photos of the auditorium, one with a full house present, even standees high up on the sides; and the other a demolition photo taken in January 1958.

operalover on May 14, 2009 at 7:20 pm

The seating capaciy of the old Boston Opera House was 2,750. Its stage facilities were considered the finest and most modern in the world in 1909-1910. The Boston Opera Company gave a season of 6 performances per week of about 25 operas from November until March annually from 1909-1914. A financially disasterous tour to Paris, April to June, 1914 and the outbreak of World War I caused the demise of the company. Various attempts in the next 4 years to establish another full time local company were unsuccessful. The Metropolitan Opera performed at the Opera House during its annual Spring Tour until 1957. The Chicago Opera also visited annually for 2 weeks from during the 1910’s to 1932.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 21, 2009 at 2:45 pm

During its first 2 years of existence, the Boston Opera House’s neighbor across Huntington Avenue was a professional baseball park, the Huntington Avenue Grounds (1901-1911) which was made obsolete by Fenway Park in 1912. There is a nice illustration, which is half-map and half-aerial drawing, of the ball park with the Boston Opera House opposite, on page 14 of the book “Historic Ballparks” by John Pastier (Chartwell Books, 2006).

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on November 26, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Since the Boston Opera House on Huntington Avenue was demolished in 1958, there can be no “recent exterior view” of it.

Your photo is of the former BF Keith Memorial Theatre on Washington Street, later called Savoy, and now called Opera House. Its CinemaTreasures page is here.

br91975 on November 26, 2008 at 12:27 pm

The Opera House in Boston featured in that photograph, Warren, is this one: /theaters/23/

bliberman on August 20, 2008 at 9:16 am

I saw the first professional stage show of my life at this great theatre in 1948 – the Doyly Carte Opera’s “The Mikado”, which starred the legendary Martyn Green. I can still remember where we sat – my aunt took me and my cousin for our birthdays – and even a memory of the smell of the place. I believe the theatre was closed (prior to its being condemned) because of the Shubert’s consent decree with the US Government for holding monopolies in several cities. (Which is why they happen to own 17 ½ theatres on Broadway, when they once owned 35.)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 19, 2008 at 1:21 pm

The Christmas week attraction in Dec. 1921 at the Boston Opera House was the Shubert Mammoth Mid-Winter Indoor Circus starring the noted clown Poodles Hannaford. There were 2 shows daily with admission prices ranging from 25 cents to $1. Doors opened 1 hour before performances because there were a large number of various entertainments under way in the lobby and corridors; these may have included comedy shorts on screen. This show was undoubtedly a good draw during the holiday week.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 27, 2006 at 10:36 am

The Boston Opera House is profiled on pages 186-8 of “National Trust Guide to Great Opera Houses in America” by Karyl Lynn Zietz (1996 John Wiley & Sons). The author relates that financial troubles for the Boston Opera Company became fatal when the Company embarked on a tour to Europe in 1915. Eben Jordan sold the theatre to Sumner Draper and Murray Howe in 1916 and they in turn sold it to the Shubert brothers in 1918. Thus, the movie engagement of “For Napoleon and France” in 1914 occured before the Shuberts owned the building. The author further states that the demolition contract was signed by Northeastern University in November 1957.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 23, 2006 at 6:20 pm

The theater opened in November 1909; its architect was Parkman Haven of the firm Wheelwright and Haven. Some claim that it had over 3000 seats – a recent example: Craig Morrison in his book “Theaters” lists a seating capacity of 3944. It had 2 tiers of boxes and 2 balconies. On its sidewalls were several more tiers of boxes, plus a standee area high up under the ceiling on each side. Along the right side of the theater was a side-street called Opera Place. The stage-door and a wing with dozens of dressing rooms was located there. On the rear stage wall there was a large scene-loading door. From about 1948 until it closed there were no more movies there, as far as I can recall.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 23, 2006 at 4:14 pm

The site now contains Speare Hall, a Northeastern University dormitory.

From a Northeastern University online magazine: Operatic Intrigue: The Comic, Tragic, True Tale of Opera on Huntington Avenue, by NU professor Harlow Robinson,

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 23, 2006 at 1:02 pm

The Boston Opera House is visible on this 1917 map. It is near the middle of the map, at the corner of Huntington Avenue and Opera Place. Just west of it is the large storage warehouse mentioned above.