Our 364-seat historic venue sprung to life at the end of the 19th century, when the Grand Army of the Republic (the GAR) wanted to build an auditorium that would be useful for the growing town of Valparaiso, and Porter County. In 1893, Memorial Opera House was constructed to commemorate the Veterans of the Civil War. More than 100 years later, the GAR’s strong voice still echoes in Memorial Opera House’s beautiful red, white and blue stained-glass windows found throughout the building, and on the plaque over the entrance honoring “The Soldiers and Sailors of 1861-5.
Throughout the years, Memorial Opera House has stood as a beacon for the Arts: acting as a venue for theatrical events, concerts, public meetings, weddings, funerals, presentations, school plays and graduations.
In addition, some nationally recognized personalities have been part of events at the Memorial Opera House.
- "March King" John Philip Sousa led a series of concerts from the Opera House stage beginning in February1898.
- The Marx Brothers performed here for two days in January of 1919.
- Valparaiso native Beulah Bondi, the woman who portrayed Jimmy Stewart's mother in the movies Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and It's A Wonderful Life, got her start in theatre on this very stage in a production of Little Lord Fauntleroy.
For over 40 years, Valparaiso’s own Community Theatre Guild acted as stewards of Memorial Opera House, bringing with them an ambitious vision: to bring living, legitimate theatre to residents of Porter County, and to rehabilitate and preserve Memorial Opera House. While these artists have since established themselves in a new home, Valparaiso’s Chicago Street Theatre, the twofold mission to create vibrant art and steadfastly protect the historic theater has been proudly renewed by the tireless volunteers, the loyal patrons, and the new Memorial Opera House staff.
Our Present and Future
The present is truly an invigorating time for Memorial Opera House. Much needed restoration work has begun on both the interior and exterior of the 120-year-old building. Brick, plaster, paint, flooring, doors, windows, and draperies have all been targeted in the renovation work that ushered in 2013. The Memorial Opera House Foundation has been reactivated and Porter County has generously renewed its support to return Memorial Opera House to its previous 1890’s grandeur.
And with the new renovation schedule comes a new promise: Memorial Opera House – Spotlighting History, Community, and the Arts. The renovation of the building constitutes only a part of our pledge to care for and recall our history. Building tours are now available as part of our mission to shine a light on our history. New partnerships with community leaders and businesses will fruitfully bring revenue and an active sense of fraternity to Valparaiso and Porter County. Our desire to bind together with our Community to envision a prosperous future goes hand in hand with our commitment to the Arts.
Throughout the world’s history, thriving arts have been a sure sign of thriving society. Our commitment to the Arts and Education stems from a philosophy that the Arts make our lives better. With this in mind, Memorial Opera House staff dutifully works to bring live theatre, music, and dance to our community and educational opportunities to our children.
With your help, whether generous volunteerism, consistent patronage, humbling tax- deductible donations, or all of the above, Memorial Opera House can courageously look toward its future, Spotlighting History, Community, and the Arts. And we can say with certainty, ‘the future is bright.’