In 1984, the theater of the Homestake Opera House burned. A two-story on Main Street, but with the city of Lead’s steep topography, it’s a three story building at the alley where the theater is located. The blaze took a long time to extinguish. An expedient roof was put over the space, but the restoration of the damaged theater is still ongoing. In recent years, an active schedule of plays, weddings, and other community events has brought renewed energy into seeing a renaissance for the Homestake Opera House. The newest project is an Interpretive Center telling the history of the opera house and Lead. They’ll soon be continuing restoration on the decorative plaster and box seats in the theater.
The opera house was built in 1914 by the Homestake Mining Company, a company which overwhelmed the economy of the town, and practiced the industrial paternalism that had distinct parallels in the Minnesota Iron Range towns and I’m sure many others. The opera house was designed by William Bartlett and listed with the Lead Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. It was a large, multipurpose space with a theater, pool, bowling alley, meeting rooms, and more that was central to the social life of Lead for decades. Much more on the history of the building can be found on their website, here.
If you go, the office entrance is on the alley. Tours are provided on request, but call ahead (we didn’t but we should have…) and tours are $10/person (good cause!). I’m not sure how they’ve decided to provide access to the interpretive center… There’s also an art center on the Main Street side. See their website for schedule of events and to learn how to give of time, talent, and treasure to this special place.
Also in Lead, see the new visitor center for the Homestake Mine – Sanford Underground Research Laboratory to see an overlook of the open pit they dug out of the mine in the later 20th century and displays of the history of both the extensive mining operation and the world-class scientific research facility that is now located in the mine.