Sandwich Opera House

Opera House

Built post Civil War in 1878, the City Hall of Sandwich with its Opera House reflects the mixture of revival styles of those times and is a distinguished example of the "Second Empire" style. The spirit of the early years after that war broke apart pure styles and mingled and transformed structures into the eclectic architectures of this building.

Also in an adventurous "style" of those times, the mayor and city alderman approved a bond issue of $10,000 (later an added $2000 in cost over-runs) and assigned local architects and builders, brothers Enos and Israel Doan to what became an exciting project. Although there are no records which give the number of artisans employed, the 48 x 80 foot building, with the lower floor 12 feet high and the upper floor with balcony 22 feet, was completed on schedule in six months and was dedicated with flowery speeches in January of 1879.

It was one of the early buildings in the expanding mid-west which proved to be a complete "community center" with offices for the mayor and city clerk, council room, visiting judge's chambers, engine room, and marshall's office and "with five strong jail cells for those inclined". The second floor became the Opera House rather than "theater", since that (heaven forbid) might have suggested a burlesque image.

In addition to the function of city government which still continue, activities in the Opera House included shows by traveling troupes with everything from vaudeville to Shakespeare, home talent productions, lecture series, W.C.T.U. meetings, recitals, high school plays and graduations, church activities, the firemen's ball and many other events. With passing years new outside facilities took over, leaving the Opera House idle after World War II. However, functions of the city offices continued within the building.

In 1979 a community group formed, and the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Association to Restore City Hall was given not-for-profit and tax exempt status in 1982, and a grant of $1,275,000 from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs was approved in late 1983 to cover 75% of the construction costs. The restoration and renovation was completed in the spring of 1986. Michael Dixon, AIA, of St. Charles, is the restoration architect.

Today the Opera House again provides a modern setting for the performing arts. There is a full season including classical music, country-western ensembles, student recitals, bluegrass music, dance, three two-weekend productions by the resident company Indian Valley Theatre, pop performers, summer theater workshops for children, et cetera. Rental performances are also given as scheduling permits.

Contact the Opera House if the season's "mailing" is of interest, and for rental information concerning the theater, reception, and community rooms.