Two years ago, supporters of the arts in the Havre de Grace area were gearing up for a campaign in the city election that would be decided May 3.
On that ballot was a question about supporting a proposal for the city government to borrow $2.1 million that would facilitate a quicker completion of the Opera House.
The Opera House, for those who haven’t been following the issue, was built in 1870. There’s the belief that it wasn’t ever an Opera House in more than name only, since the moniker of theater a century or so ago was seen as being seedy. In the early 20th century the building morphed from an entertainment venue to a school and then later became city hall, until the current city hall was built in the 1990s.
The building then became home to a local theater group, The Tidewater Players, but it also became in need of renovation. Community arts leaders started looking at the space as a potential wider cultural center that could be linked via an enclosed corridor with the second floor of the adjacent firehouse that was unused space.
Developing the project, however, was going slowly when the plan for the city to borrow the rest of the money to finish it was hatched. To their credit, city officials deferred to the voters the decision on whether to borrow the more than $2 million needed to complete the project.
Not surprisingly, the voters, who generally speaking tend to be for rather than against things, approved it. The majority spoke, the project was finished and in its early days has been used quite frequently. The Cultural Center at the Opera House, as it’s called, has a seating capacity of 203.
That cultural center was recently presented a Maryland Preservation Award for Project Excellence from the Maryland Historical Trust.
Havre de Grace Mayor William T. Martin said that “when it comes to preserving historical structures, and when it comes to promoting cultural arts, that it’s the citizens that made it happen.”
We congratulate the City of Havre de Grace and its voters on a project so well done that it not only earned one of the state’s most prestigious awards, but also created a cultural arts showpiece.