Built in 1908 by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Lunenburg Opera House has been an arts and entertainment venue for over 124 years in Old Town Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. With its excellent acoustics and structural design fashioned after an old European Music Hall plus unique shipbuilding influences, the building is an integral part of Lunenburg’s musical and cultural heritage.
The Lunenburg Opera House operated as a vaudeville concert hall and live theatre until the mid 1930s, when it was converted to a cinema called the Capitol Theatre.
The Capitol Theatre was a popular entertainment venue in Lunenburg from the 1930s to the 1970s. In the local school’s newspaper, the “Sea Gull,” the Capitol Theatre was advertised as being of the “coziest” theatres on the South Shore in Nova Scotia.
In the mid-1970s, the building was purchased by Jack Sheriff, a former English professor at Acadia University and promoter of the arts in Nova Scotia. He renamed the building the Lunenburg Opera House and revitalized its use as a performance space for the arts. By the early 2000s, the second floor contained a recording studio. The building had deteriorated over the years and attempts to renovate and operate it had limited success.
After the death of Sheriff, the Folk Harbour Society, in collaboration with other Lunenburg organizations, launched a campaign to buy, restore and operate the building. However, restoration of the LOH began in 2006 when it was purchased by Farley Blackman who operated it as a private venture called Lunenburg Opera House Ltd. He invested considerable funds and energy into the project and for the past years it has been rented out for concerts, films and special events.
On April 25th, 2019, the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Society (LFHS), with a generous grant of $433,800 from the Fordi Foundation and assistance in covering the closing costs from a local donor, purchased the building. In December of 2019, Guenther and Susan Reibling made a donation to the Society to allow it to pay out the mortgage. The Reiblings were long time Festival supporters, who said they were “pleased to see the Society acquire the Opera House in order to expand their programming and provide entertainment in a beautiful facility.”
The LFHS is now seeking additional funding from federal, provincial and municipal sources as well as interested community members to support the renovation and operation of this important heritage structure in the heart of Old town Lunenburg.