Touring a majestic Fremont landmark

Pure Nebraska
Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 10:30 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The Fremont Opera House is a place filled with history, and a visit there takes you back in time. An effort is now underway to restore the opera house to its original glory.

We caught up with Lee Meyer, who is the executive director of the Femont Opera House, to talk about all of this. “For a little bit of history, the opera house all started in 1887,” Meyer said. “There was an opera house downtown, and it burned down. The people wanted another opera house. James Wheeler Love built this opera house in 1888. This building has stood the test of time.”

There have been many big events at the opera house. It had all of the stars coming through when it was a popular stop. The building also survived the Pathfinder Hotel explosion. “In 1976, the Pathfinder was across the street here,” Meyer said. “There was a gas leak, and so it exploded. It was a popular hotel and a large one. If you look out, you can see many of the buildings where the explosion happened are now built very low. That’s because many of the original buildings were destroyed at the time of the blast. The only thing that happened to this building is the windows got blown out. This building has walls that are 18″ thick.”

“The Fremont Opera House has unique architecture,” Meyer said. “It’s five stories high. It has architecture from the Richardsonian Romanesque period. On the inside, it’s just beautiful. Here on the main floor, it was a restaurant, a saloon and even a liquor store. But the upstairs was where the real opera house was. The floors remain original up there. The stage is still there, the counterweight systems are there, and the upper balcony is still intact.”

A effort to renovate and restore the opera house is underway. The board continues to write grants to make improvements. “We want the original feeling of the opera house to remain,” Meyer said. “We have original stained-glass windows in the doors that are from 1903. We are having those repaired. We are trying to do small things. But, we’ve also had a number of people, including architects, engineers, roofing people, and HVAC people come in. They say the building is viable. We want to bring it all back to life, so we can use the upstairs as a venue. We want to make that space beautiful again, and usable. I know the community would benefit economically from a renovation like this.”

“We’ve had the plans drawn up,” Meyer said. “We’ve had a contractor meeting, and now we are in what we call the silent phase. We are going to start approaching people to see if they will help us. We know there will be people who will want to step in and help us with this project.”