Much of the information in the Our History pages was excerpted from an article in The Times Of Northwest Indiana written by Porter/LaPorte Editor Doug Ross that was published on February 15, 2018. You can CLICK HERE to read the full article.
"The Memorial Opera House, originally dedicated to Porter County soldiers and sailors who died during the Civil War, eventually honored all veterans of that war, not just the war dead."
"It was a popular spot for political rallies, concerts, lectures, plays and social events as well as a meeting place for the GAR. Later, when motion pictures came out, it became the first theater in Valparaiso to show them, Pazour said."
"The original uses continue, although motion pictures rarely are shown because licensing fees are so high and attendance too low to make it profitable, Memorial Opera House Executive Director Scot “PJ” MacDonald said.
John Philip Sousa, the renowned march king, performed repeatedly at the Memorial Opera House in downtown Valparaiso."
"Many famous people appeared on that stage, including President Theodore Roosevelt, music composer and march king John Philip Sousa, the Marx Brothers, Valparaiso University graduate Lowell Thomas and an assortment of other performers — including Bronte, “the mathematical or mind reading dog,” along with “Prof. Wm. M’Cormick, Whistling Imitator, Magician, Ventriloquist,” whose Jan. 27, 1905, appearance was advertised in the Porter County Vidette."
"Among the stars, though, was one who deserves special recognition. Beulah Bondy (1888-1981), a local girl, was given a rave review for the title role in “Little Lord Fauntleroy” when she was just 8 years old.
Bondy, who received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Valparaiso University, changed the spelling of her last name to Bondi when she went to seek fame and fortune — both of which she achieved — as an actress.
Bondi was one of the first five actresses nominated for the newly created Oscars category of “Best Supporting Actress” for her role in “The Gorgeous Hussy.”
She also played Jimmy Stewart’s mother in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” among other movies."
"Bondi returned to Valparaiso periodically to visit family and old haunts, including the Memorial Opera House and Valparaiso University. She is credited with giving a “generous donation” in 1967 to the Memorial Opera House to help purchase new seating.
"Those seats are only now being replaced by ones that had been used at the now-defunct Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, MacDonald said.
“That’s a huge, huge savings for us,” he said.
A few years ago, he got a price of $90,000 to replace the seats — nine times the original cost of the building — and that didn’t include any repairs to the floors those seats would sit on."
- Doug Ross, The Times Of Northwest Indiana