The next place on our itinerary was the Grand Opera House. Since you can see it, I might as well mention right now that we had lunch at O'Malley's Pub next door after our tour. The food was very good but it is really more of a pub than restaurant so it was rather smoky inside.
Henry Greenwall raised $100,000 for construction of the Opera House in 1894 from a handful of prominent businessmen and civic-minded Galvestonians. The Opera House was built on the site of an old ice house and is made of St. Louis pressed brick with buff stone trim, cupolas, and terracotta ornaments and was designed with four floors housing a theater, hotel and shops.
$8 million was raised for the restoration between 1974 and 1990. Support came from volunteer efforts of thousand of residents from Galveston county, the greater Houston area, and the state of Texas as well as from businesses and corporations, local government and generous foundation support such as the Harris and Eliza Kempner Fund, the Moody Foundation, Houston Endowment, and George and Cynthia Mitchell.
During the restoration, thousands of volunteers under the direction of skilled restoration craftsmen removed 10-12 coats of paint revealing red heart pine. Wainscoting was replaced with wood from demolished turn of the century buildings and carpet was manufactured to match the colors and designs on a scrap of the original carpet found in the second balcony.
The finished theater seats 519 people on the main Orchestra Level, 280 on the Mezzanine Level, and another 209 on the upper Grand Tier.
The Grand survived the storms of 1900 and 1915, as well as Hurricanes Carla, Alicia, and Ike as well as periods of neglect at times during its history. Here you can see Karen standing in front of a plaque marking the water level in the lobby during Hurricane Ike in 2008.
We were given a great tour by an employee of the theater. These are the steps leading from the ticket booth to the Lobby.
The elegant Lobby leads to the Orchestra Level with a staircase to the next level.
This beautiful detailed staircase was uncovered when sheetrock was removed during the major restoration.
The crew was working on the stage production for an upcoming performance.
Here we are up on the highest balcony which is where servants sat when they attended with their wealthy patrons. As you can see, they may have had the best view.
These balconies were added in a later restoration. People came primarily to be seen when they occupied a box rather than to see the production since they were facing somewhat towards the audience.
The Grand is one of the few remaining theaters of it’s era in Texas and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1993, the 73rd Texas Legislature proclaimed the Grand “The Official Opera House of Texas.”
Sorry this picture is a little blurry but it was something unique we got to see. On display on the upper floor is a sand painting (Mandala) created on stage by Tibetan Monks of Gaden Shartse. Normally the monks destroy the Mandala after it is completed but the Opera House negotiated an agreement whereby they got to display it as long as they didn't advertise it.
Hard to believe this is made from grains of sand isn't it?