The Opera House is Pocahontas County’s premier performing arts center. An intimate venue, with seating for about 250, the Opera House is part of the West Virginia Historic Theatre Trail. Its annual performance series brings more than a dozen performances on its stage each year, ranging from bluegrass to jazz, folk to musical theatre and everything in between.
Ornate pressed-metal panels adorn the ceiling, and the large performance hall is accented by a balustrade of American Chestnut, which wraps around three sides of the balcony. Light pours in through the building’s 32 windows.
At the turn of the 20th century, the railroad’s arrival in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, opened vast stands of virgin timber to commercial markets. The advent of rail travel and commerce opened isolated communities to all the activity and opportunity that followed the rails.
The first Opera House in Marlinton, known as “The Grand,” began showcasing vaudeville acts, dramatic productions and moving picture shows in 1907. The second and larger Opera House, on Third Avenue, towers above other buildings in town reminding us of the impact of the railroad. Built in 1910 by J. G. Tilton, the three-story concrete structure boasted a large stage and wrap-around balcony. The glory days of this grand facility were short lived. Mr. Tilton, also the publisher of the Marlinton Messenger ran into financial trouble and the building was sold in 1914. It was used for car sales and lumber storage for many years.
In 1991, Pocahontas County’s Historic Landmarks Commission purchased the Opera House and, with support from the community, worked to transform it from an abandoned and forgotten old building into a beautiful performance space and center for community activities, reopening its doors and bringing performances to its stage once again in 1999.
The century old building is now on the National Register of Historic Places and has become the performing arts center of Pocahontas County. On any given Friday or Saturday night the building is packed with people, who come from far and near to hear the sounds of artists like John McCutcheon, Chris Smither or the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys.
The Opera House also hosts a variety of community events, from open jam sessions to family movie nights. The building is also available for private rentals.
Thanks to the continued hard work of dedicated volunteers, and a supportive participatory community, the Opera House is once again the cultural heart of the community.