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When the Boston Opera House stood on Huntington Avenue

Boston Opera House on Huntington Avenue

Among the items in the New York Public Library's online collection of Boston images is this postcard showing the Boston Opera House on Huntington Avenue.

It opened in 1909, thanks to a $700,000 donation from Eben Jordan (as in Jordan Marsh), never really did very well and then, in the 1950s, when the BRA was in full Tear Down All the Things mode, Northeastern got permission to tear it down to put up what is now Speare Hall. Only the hall didn't go down easily: Two demolition companies gave up trying to knock the thing down; finally, a third company came in with a bigger wrecking ball and knocked all of it down.

Today, its performances echo in the name of the tiny side street off Huntington called Opera Place - and in a single brick that for some reason Northeastern decided to save from the fate of all the other bricks that once made up the opera house.

More from the Globe.
Photo from its later years.

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IMAGE(http://bostonzest.typepad.com/.a/6a00e54fc42bb88834019aff72ca2a970c-500wi)
                                 ( Yes, it does look a lot like Symphony Hall. )

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One of the "later" photos shows the building sporting a movie poster for "Anna Lucasta" which was released in 1958, the year the House was torn down. However prior to the demolition the structural safety of the building was known to be in question, so I don't know if it was actually hosting events at that late date?

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The house was booked for quite a few events in '58 which were switched to the nearby Loewe's State after the demolition.

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Sorry if this is obvious, but is the single brick incorporated into Speare Hall, or somewhere else?

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According to Wikipedia (the 1909 link above):

A brick rescued from the demolished theater by noted WGBH-FM announcer Ron Della Chiesa is preserved in the theater's archives at Northeastern University.

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"A History of Opera in Boston"
http://scholarworks.umass.edu/theses/470/

Abstract
This thesis examines the cultural context of opera in Boston between the years 1620 to 2010. Specifically, I look at how the Boston Opera Company was founded, its existence, and its ultimate demise. The rise of opera in colonial Boston is also explored and especially how the immigration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries influenced the city. Around this time of changing demographics Eben D. Jordan, Jr., of Jordan Marsh Co. decided to build an opera house for the city of Boston.

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/ih2O1m9.jpg)
IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/jdDZZRz.jpg)

The original plans and many documents pertaining to the Opera House are part of NEU's libraries' Special Collections and the NEU Space Planning & Design/Facilities archives.

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An impressive building. Architecture seldom has such elegance anymore.

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This was a major cultural travesty.

There is a beautiful little theater in Derby Line VT that is claimed to be a 1/6th size replica of the old Boston Opera House.

Whatever that little hall is, it is a beautiful acoustical and architectural space, and it reminds us of the cultural treasure of which we were all robbed.

It's too bad nobody knows how to build something like that any more.

As a city, I hope we've done what it necessary to landmark Horticultural Hall and Symphony Hall.

Does anybody know if that has happened?

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Horticultural Hall has been destroyed on the inside already.

Symphony Hall is landmarked to a certain degree. Hasn't stopped the BSO from neglecting the building. The original bronze lights on Huntington Avenue were allowed to fall apart. They cheaped on on the marquee restoration on Mass Ave by not replicating decayed ornament. Skylights haven't been replaced. Ductwork has never been cleaned since 1912 to the chagrin of allergy sufferers. It's still loaded with decaying lead paint and fire hazards.Despite hundreds of millions of dollars donated the organization has never bothered to finish the inscriptions or statuary on the outside or provide a second elevator. It's a Renaissance Italian era style fiasco that Boston hasn't been able to finish Symphony Hall in over a century

The BSO and Mass Hort (what's left of Mass Hort) suffer from the same rot/bloat as the MFA did prior to the Game of Thrones housecleaning by Malcolm Rogers. All the money goes to development and administrative departments instead of the facilities and performers.

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If I remember correctly, the bronze lights on the Huntington steps were removed during the centennial renovation/restoration because they were not part of McKim's original design & had been added later. Similarly nothing has been done about the exterior decorations because Henry Lee Higginson, who was paying for the building, and Mc Kim disagreed about them. Higginson is the one who decided finally not to fill the exterior niches or follow through on any of the other decorative elements McKim designed. As far as I know, there has never been any plan to ignore Higginson's final decision.

I am surprised to hear about the ductwork. The Hall was finally air conditioned in 1970, so I would suspect all the ductwork was cleaned if not replaced then. Regular cleaning would seem to be necessary to insure the proper functioning of that system, not to mention heating. Plus aren't such things subject to an inspection of some sort?

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That's the BS cover story told by the BSO and not true. Every corner is cut to save money on facilities and musicians to allocate elsewhere.

The orchestra took a pay cut when administration got raises through phony promotions during the recession. Many angry orchestra members quit over that insult.

Doors fall of hinges and get stuck during concerts because of shoddy maintenance. The backstage areas are decrepit. The hvac system heats instead of cooling and vice versa half the time. The hall air is so stale and ill tempered it messes with wood instruments. The brand new roof leaks. And the list goes on. A world renowned venue maintained like some student slumlord tennament.

The lights on Huntington Ave were long gone before the centennial. I doubt they are stored anywhere for restoration.

If Higginson came back from the dead he'd be irate how the Symphony is run. The MBTA is better!

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actually, the performers are rather famously well paid

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It's really a shame. Speare is such an ugly building, inside and out, compared to this.

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Because I've always wondered whether the facade was some sort of an opera house in-joke. It looks a lot like the Met which opened in Lincoln Center in 1966:

http://www.panoramio.com/photo/16691086

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_Opera_House_(Lincoln_Center)#/media/File:Metropolitan_Opera_House_At_Lincoln_Center_2.jpg

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Was dedicated in 1964.

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I share your impression that Speare was heavily influenced by Linclon Center, and it seems plausible given that the plans for LC must have existed prior to the groundbreaking in 1959 and were undoubtedly widely publicized.

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