Karl Marx once said, “history repeats itself,” and in the case of the Pocahontas County Opera House, his words ring true. However, the circumstances surrounding the Opera House are neither a tragedy nor a farce – rather, it is a story of renovation and restoration.
The cycle has since come full circle, and a renovation awaits. But, it is not the Opera House we know and love that is in need of repair.
As part of Marlinton Town Council’s efforts to revitalize downtown, the lot next to the Opera House has undergone a series of improvements. The once unused lot has been leveled – transformed for additional parking – and an outdoor stage is being planned to take the place of a wooden shed that stood at the back of the lot.
Before the shed could be removed, it had to be emptied – and in the midst of clearing out its contents, a forgotten gem was rediscovered – a miniature replica of the Opera House, weathered by time and age.
Chips, scratches and scuffs litter the replica’s surface, and small sections of wood – a vibrant brown against the creaminess of the exterior of the Opera House – have been lost in the years since its creation. Tiny window panes have come loose over the years, and in some cases, the windows are missing all together.
Undoubtedly, the model – a muted picture of its former glory – has seen better days, but do not fear – not all hope has been lost.
When it seemed that the model was destined to be thrown out, Opera House Board of Directors member Teresa Hammons stepped up and took the weathered replica under her wing.
“Brynn had asked me to be on the Board of Directors at the Opera House,” Hammons said. “Earlier in the spring, she had shown me a picture of the replica and had mentioned how they had wanted to get rid of it. It’s big for a model, and they weren’t sure what else to do with it. But you can’t get rid of something like that. It’s really a piece of history for Marlinton.”
Instead of letting the model be hauled off, Hammons took it home with her where she – along with her husband and sons – will restore it. However, the restoration won’t be easy.
“It needs a lot of work,” Hammons said. “We’ve got to put new windows in and fix up some of the little ledges around it. The roof is torn up, as well as a couple of places on the sides. It just needs an overhaul.”
Along with the primary renovations being made, the Hammons hope to add tiny fixtures – such as little lights and miniature signs and posters – to enhance the model’s likeness of the actual performance hall.
“The lot next to the Opera House is going to be getting a lot of love in the next few months,” Opera House Director Brynn Kusic said, “and I think the miniature Opera House is a really good symbol of the beginning – of the fact that it was in such disrepair, and suddenly, it’s anew. I feel like it’s a symbol of that moment – of the Opera House being born again.”
The miniature Opera House first made its appearance in the early 1990s.
Prior to the flood of 1985, local historian Ruth Morgan had approached the Opera House’s then-owners, Glades Building Supply, with a desire to purchase the building. However, it wasn’t until 1991 that her dream became a reality.
News reached Morgan that Glades was looking to relocate, and in 1991, Pocahontas County’s Historic Landmarks Commission purchased the Opera House.
At the time of the purchase, the condition of the performance hall was a drastic change from the handcrafted beauty it had once been. Fire had damaged the left side of the building – all the way up to the balcony – and a majority of the Opera House’s original woodwork had been removed.
The stage had been removed, and to accommodate the needs of an auto dealership, the Opera House’s floors had been lowered to street level.
Wanting to restore the building to its former glory, the Historic Landmarks Commission turned to the local Lions Club for help. A miniature replica of the Opera House was commissioned to showcase the improvements and restorations the commission hoped to see happen.
“There were a bunch of people in on it,” Lions Club member Ernie Shaw recalled. “We would get together for our meetings, and at the end, we would spend time working on the replica.”
The replica made its first appearance during a Pioneer Days parade in 1992. Following the parade, it was put on display at the Opera House, where festival-goers were invited to stop in and learn more about the upcoming renovation.
The Hammons hope to have this most recent restoration completed in time for Allegheny Echoes.
Cailey Moore may be contacted at email@example.com