Grand Opera House


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Venue Type & Location


Site Name: Grand Opera House
Location: St. Catharines
County: Lincoln
Location Type: Town - in town at determined location


Address: 47 Ontario St., St. Catherines


In the late 1870s, influential forces in the city felt that the community needed a proper place for public gatherings, abandoning the former practice of holding such events in the Old Courthouse, in churches, or in the meeting halls of local fraternal societies.


A new purpose-built theatre opened in September 1877 and was initially known as the Academy of Music. The name was soon changed to the Grand Opera House, and later was often shortened to just “The Grand.”


There are two things worth emphasizing about our Grand Opera House – it was not very grand looking, and it didn’t offer just opera, either.


Physically, the building bore no resemblance to the grandiose opera houses of Europe. It was a multi-purpose building — part commercial, part residential, and part entertainment venue, with the public face of the building being the commercial-residential part of the building, facing Ontario Street. It didn’t look any different than a lot of other buildings along Ontario or St. Paul streets.


And the theatre’s offerings were by no means a steady diet of Wagner, Verdi and Puccini – as much or more time was devoted to a mix of choral concerts, plays, minstrel shows, lectures — once a troupe of trained horses took the stage!


The actual theatre space was at the back of the complex, reached by walking through the Ontario Street entrance and down a long corridor past the commercial tenants. The theatre’s exterior was pretty plain, constructed of the reddish-brown rubblestone widely used for other important buildings during the 1870s. But inside it was quite grand, judging by the drawing that accompanies this article, showing what a performer on the Opera House stage would have seen when looking out at the audience.


The Opera House survived one damaging fire in 1895, but another one in April 1926 was severe enough to end the building’s days as a theatre. After that the interior was stripped of whatever remained of its seats and stage and was ultimately filled with three levels of bowling alleys, thus being reborn as Dorado Lanes.


But Dorado Lanes eventually closed, and the commercial-residential part of the building on Ontario Street suffered another fire in the winter of 1992. Not long afterward that part of the complex was demolished and replaced with a parking lot. The shell of the former theatre building/bowling alley behind it remained until 1998, when it too was demolished. 


Gannon, Dennis. "Yesterday and Today: Grand Opera House." St. Catherine's Standard. 28 October 2016. Accessed 4 June 2017.

Performer/Company at Grand Opera House

Performer/Company Patron Type # of events
Jane Hasting Players (-) Dramatic 1

Events at Grand Opera House

Event Date Venue Location Troupe
Dramatic 1926-1926 St. Catharines, Lincoln Jane Hasting Players