History of the Opera House
The Uvalde Grand Opera House was built in 1891, and is the second oldest opera house in the state of Texas. It was designed by architect B. F. Trester, the same architect that designed the previous courthouse in Uvalde, and the courthouse that still stands in Bandera, Texas. The Uvalde Grand Opera House was the last building he designed before his death in February of 1891, just months before the Opera House was completed and opened in the same year.
Commissioned by the Uvalde Real Estate and Building Company and built by Patrick F. Doyle, the building was completed in eight months, and was opened in October of 1891. The Opera House played host to traveling musicians and vaudeville acts, balls, dances, and graduation ceremonies. In 1908, the First United Methodist Church of Uvalde put on the hilarious operetta,”The Mikado” written by W. S. Gilbert, and was the first local theatrical production at the Opera House.
The building passed through several hands until 1917, native Uvaldean and former Vice President John Nance Garner purchased the building from F. A. Piper. He made the corner room into his office and positioned his desk chair in the windows of the turret so that he could watch over his hometown. Even when he served under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington, Garner maintained his office here at the Opera House.
John Nance Garner removed the original stage and chairs from the auditorium so that partitions could create temporary office spaces. These offices remained open until the early fifties when they eventually closed down, and the auditorium in the Opera House stood empty for nearly two decades. Retail stores remained open on the lower level of the Opera House. In 1978, the Garner Estate sold the Opera House to the City of Uvalde for $10.
In 1979, a commission was formed to raise funds to renovate the Opera House and return it to it’s former glory. The Opera House was officially re-opened in 1982 and was the center stage of Uvalde once again! Hosting dozens of plays, musicals, and a variety of other shows, the Opera House was once again a part of the community and way of life in Uvalde.
A unique and interesting feature of the Opera House is the Dragon that sits atop the turret. The Texas Historical Commission writes, “One of the most surprising and delightful parts of this Richardsonian Romanesque structure is the small dragon coiled at the top of the corner turret. Legend says that this creature was something of a mistake—a scribble by the architect that the builder took seriously—but it’s been a beloved part of the opera house for nearly 130 years. Although the original dragon was removed due to weather damage, it is still on display inside the opera house, with a replica now perching outside.”
The Opera House is still a beloved place in our community after 130 years. Come see for yourself what makes this beloved landmark so unique! Call to schedule your tour today.