In its heyday, the Lakeport Opera House in Laconia served as a performance venue, dance hall, even a speakeasy.
It closed around 1960 and was boarded up. Now, the nearly 140-year-old building is reopening after extensive renovations. The first live performance is scheduled for Saturday night.
More than $1 million was invested into renovating the former Moore's Opera House over the last three years, which also once housed a post office, grocery store, and pharmacy. Some features were saved, such as the tin roof, wood floors, bannisters, stage and curtains, and posters of old performances.
Other things were added, such as specialized lighting, metal, crystal an hand-carved accents, and artwork. And another thing was discovered underneath the building recently — a tunnel. The history on that isn't clear yet.
The seating capacity allows for 220 people, but the current floor plan is set for under that. Seats have cocktail table access or drink rails. A separate lounge has a full bar and lakeside views.
“This is a boyhood dream come to life,” said Scott Everett, the owner and developer, who grew up in Gilford and is now based in Dallas. “Reviving and reopening this building brings me great joy. I am grateful to all the people that helped us bring back a 19th century cultural center that blends high-end style with historic charm and I am confident that memorable experiences will be made here.”
Everett added, “For me, the project is more than just the theater; it’s about the overall community." There are plans to hold weddings and other events, and show movies, football games, and children's performances.
The opera house building also is home to The Laconia Daily Sun and a coffee shop.
Following a workers' appreciation day on Thursday and a VIP night on Friday, the first live performance is Saturday night: the Flutie Brothers Band, which includes former NFL star and Massachusetts native Doug Flutie, and his brother Darren.
Another performance space in Laconia, the Colonial Theatre, was recently rebuilt, and a grand opening is planned for the summer. The theater, which dates back to 1914, It seats 750 people. The project cost $14.4 million.