Paths to the Present: The Windsor Opera House | MyWindsorNow.com

Paths to the Present: The Windsor Opera House

Caitlin Huesser
For Windsor Now

Opera House ticket stub, circa 1904. "Parquet" refers to the seating section, today's equivalent is the orchestra section.

In 1902, John Dowding envisioned a splendid opera house located at the center of downtown Windsor on the southeast corner of 4th and Main streets. At the time, Windsor's inhabitants were scarcely more than 300, but that did not deter Dowding from constructing a two-story brick building with three first-floor storefronts and grand opera house auditorium on the second floor.

Close to 165,000 bricks from Fort Collins were used for the building's construction, which took less than eight months to complete. The opera house auditorium boasted seating for 400, gas lighting, a drop curtain twenty feet wide, and a twenty-by-sixty-foot stage. On Dec. 23, 1902, William B. Bradbury's Ester, the Beautiful Queen, was the inaugural performance.

The Dowding Opera House became the cultural center of Windsor. The auditorium saw Windsor's first-ever basketball game between Greeley and Longmont high school teams in 1903, as well as great performances such as William Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" and popular comedian Joseph Newman.

The glory of the Opera House was short lived. After changing managers several times and struggling to book traveling performances, John Dowding sold the second-floor opera auditorium in March 1905, less than three years after its opening. The local chapter of the Masons fraternal organization bought the space and quickly renovated it to include multiple parlors, a dining room and a large hall. The Masons owned the building until the late 1980s.

Today, the Dowding Opera House is home to the Hearth Restaurant and Pub (205 ½ 4th Street). ❖

— Caitlin Heusser is the Museum Curator for the town of Windsor.