Welcome To Blessing's Opera House
In 1869, John Blessing built the large and commodious structure known as Blessing’s Opera House. Mr. Blessing attracted big name performers traveling between Cincinnati and Indianapolis. According to historians, some first class troupes played on one or two night stopovers to perform.
Stock companies came to the end of their finances, young ladies set their hearts to fluttering as they gazed at the matinee idol just across the flickering footlights. The knees of amateurs knocked together as they faced the ordeal of walking out on that stage and hear tragedy and comedy play out their little dramas.
Lectures, concerts, minstrel shows, stock companies, local events and amateur shows would occupy that stage. The Halls first actors were set to take the stage performing the Lady of Lyons, a five act melodrama. Community members arrived through a large entrance and, according to the December 30, 1869 Shelbyville Republican newspaper, were greeted by frescoed walls (still visible today) and ceilings, a stage bearing the marks of a first class scenic artists hands and 600 chairs all visible under the soft glow of gaslit lamps, the first in the city.
If there was any doubt about the prestige of the 46 foot tall building, the Indianapolis Journal expunged it in an article on January 6, 1870, “But in speaking of late improvements about the City of Shelbyville, the most praiseworthy of all is Blessing’s Opera Hall, situated on the northeast corner of the Public Square. Without doubt, it is the handsomest and most complete hall in the State outside of Indianapolis.”
Many famous people have graced the stage of Blessing’s Opera House. In March of 1870, Frederick Douglass gave a speech about the 15th amendment. Over 10,000 people came to the public square that day hoping to catch a glimpse of Mr. Douglass. Other folks, such as Woodrow Wilson, Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane as well as performances of Rip Van Winkle were enjoyed by local citizens until its closing in 1906.
For those citizens who are aged 40 and older, they remember the Opera House as the J.G. DePrez toy department until closing in 1986. The Opera House remained a large storage room until Jason Foltz and Rob Nolley purchased the building in 2019 and began renovating the Opera House. While removing layers and layers of wallpaper, they found the final frescoed backdrop from the final play held in the Opera House in 1906. They also found the original frescoed walls mentioned above, as well as John Blessing’s signature on the North wall (pictured above). The original gas wall sconces are still present. Jason and Rob have left the original frescoes and the original floor intact.
Today, folks can once again enjoy the amazing and historic facility that prior generations were able to enjoy and walk in the same footsteps that historical figures walked over a century ago.
We welcome you to book a tour or book your event.