How does a building from 1901 stay so pristine while having actors and major Louisiana figures visit it? You may know some of them: “Enrico Caruso, Huey P. Long, and Babe Ruth” (1) are a few of the notable people to visit the aptly named Grand Opera House of the South.
The opera house was constructed by David Lyons, a Plaquemine native who was a deputy sheriff and a stable owner, in the small town of Crowley. It took a major hiatus much like most of us to recollect itself after continually showing not just operas, but theater performances and other acts like musicals until 1940.
Local Crowley residents like Irene Dunne, a dancer, and Rev. Paul Freeland, local historian, performed in the theater dancing and acting respectively (2). Ironically, the opera house never hosted any opera yet continues to hold weddings, school plays, and community events within an ornate location with three stories and an almost classical air (3).The old theater lost some luster after its abandonment and was renovated in 2008 by architect Donald J. Breaux costing $4.5 million (4) which was well worth the money as the interior is a theater masquerading as a beautiful opera house.
This four-story building still hosts performances and many Crowley acting children have their careers start here. In fact, they still continue the tradition of marking the backstage with art and names of the children and teenagers who have performed here. The hardware store was removed from the first floor in order to make the wedding reception area look more attractive. The second floor even has a museum where people can look at how the Crowley community provided pieces of history back to the Grand Opera House.
Many also say the opera house is haunted as according to paranormal investigators; five people have died with two murders, two under natural causes, and one as an work incident (5). The board director, Kimberly G. Gattle says her experience with ghosts have never been mean-spirited and how she thinks they are proud of what the theater still accomplishes. With so much history since the 1900s, one can see how Crowley would be proud of its theater.
1. “History,” The Grand Opera House of the South, accessed March 24, 2022, http://www.thegrandoperahouse.org/what-we-do.
2. “Crowley’s Grand Opera Relived,” Crowley Post Signal, December 24, 1974, https://www.newspapers.com/image/470648345/.
4. “History,” The Grand Opera House of the South, accessed March 24, 2022, http://www.thegrandoperahouse.org/what-we-do.
5. Duplechien, “Haunted Nation: The Grand Opera House - Crowley, LA (From Brothels to Broadway),” Haunted Nation (blog), August 23, 2016, http://hauntednation.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-grand-opera-house-crowley-la-from.html.