The Skowhegan Municipal Building, circa 1910. Submitted photo

In celebration of Skowhegan’s bicentennial, the Skowhegan Opera House Committee plans to host a free public reception and building tour beginning at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, followed by a historical presentation by local historian Melvin Burnham at 6:30 p.m. in the 225 Water St. council room.

“The Girl from Rectors” was produced at the Skowhegan Opera House in 1909. Submitted photo

Burnham has researched the history of the Skowhegan Municipal Building and Opera House through original documents and vintage photos from the collections of the Skowhegan History House Museum & Research Center, and newspaper articles of the time found in the collections of the U.S. Library of Congress.

Burnham will use those documents and images to share the history in his presentation, “A Handsome Structure — An Era in the Cultural History of Skowhegan.”

Within days of the disastrous fire which destroyed Coburn Hall in 1904, Skowhegan citizens began to plan for a new structure that would meet their cultural and governmental needs of the time, according to a news release from Burnham.

The Skowhegan Municipal Building as it is today. Melvin Burnham photo

In 1909 the citizens of Skowhegan celebrated the grand opening of their new municipal building and 900-seat opera house on the site of the former Heselton Hotel, and before that Ichabod Russell’s Tavern.

“Madame X” was produced at the Skowhegan Opera House in 1911. Submitted photo

This community icon has a rich history. The auditorium hosted numerous political exchanges, orators, professional concerts, and Broadway performances. Minstrels, lectures, commencements, school and community-based plays and concerts occupied the grand stage.

Antonio Moreno, Gloria Swanson, Hoot Gibson, Tom Mix, Buck Jones, Flash Gordon, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, and the newsreels entertained and informed movie-goers on a regular basis through silent and talkie motion pictures.

For more information, contact Burnham at or 207-474-1083.


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