Association to Restore City Hall
Opera House of Sandwich
140 E. Railroad Street
Sandwich, Illinois 60548
Call: (815)786-2555

About

On August 20, 1878, 25 years after Sandwich first became a town, a contract was signed for construction of the Sandwich City Hall and Opera House.  An allotment of $10,000 was given for the project, with the stipulation that it must be completed by the end of the year.  The building was finished on time, but there was a cost overrun of $2,000.

The first floor of the new building housed all the functions of city government, including city offices, the police department (Marshall's office), a jail and the fire department.  The Opera House was located on the second floor and served as a true community center -- the core of social and cultural activities of the community.  Activities included shows by traveling troupes (everything from vaudeville to Shakespeare), home talent productions, lecture series, recitals, high school graduations, political rallies, temperance meetings, the Fireman's Ball, and church gatherings.

With the passing of years, outside facilities took over many of the activities held at the Opera House (the last high school graduation was held there in 1922).  Eventually, changing times, then World War II, caused total abandonment of the Opera House. As the city grew, separate facilities were built for the fire department and the police department, so that by the late 1970s, only the mayor's and city clerk's offices remained.  There was even talk of razing the building for a parking lot!

In 1979, after much urging by the Commerce Association, the Mayor appointed a steering committee to investigate saving the building. After careful study, the committee concluded that the best use was that for which it was built.  The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and extensive restoration and renovation was begun.  Careful research was done to provide an accurate representation of the theatre as it was in the 1890s.  Wall and ceiling stenciling was reproduced after tedious investigation of existing paint layers, and period-appropriate chandeliers were hung.  New sophisticated sound and lighting equipment was integrated inconspicuously into the historic fabric of the space, and an addition was built to house dressing rooms, a theatre workshop, storage areas and the Community Room on the first floor.

After much time, money and energy by volunteers to restore and renovate the City Hall and Opera House, a grand re-opening was held on  April 12, 1986.  Once again the building functions as a community oriented facility, bringing community theatre, lectures, recitals, style shows, weddings and a wide variety of outstanding performers, ranging from country to classical, to its stage.


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