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The Stoughton Opera House opened in 1901, closed in the 1950s and was renovated in the 1980s.  (From

Milwaukee, WI-Wisconsin gives its old theaters a new look

The Stoughton Opera House opened in 1901, closed in the 1950s and was renovated in the 1980s.      (From

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, cities and towns around Wisconsin built theaters and opera houses as a way to display their wealth and sophistication.

“They were status symbols for their communities back then,” said Jim Draeger, the architectural historian for the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison. “It was like cities today having major league football or baseball stadiums and teams. If you don’t have one, something is lacking.”

Theaters and opera houses were centers of culture. Attending a play or concert was a mark of social standing. As a result, theaters built during that period were often elaborate, gussied up with architectural styles ranging from Italian Renaissance to Moorish Revival and Art Deco.

Most of these theaters were razed long ago. However, some cities and towns around the state – ranging from Stoughton to Viroqua to Manitowoc (Milwaukee, too, home of the Pabst Theater) – have preserved and renovated them, offering visitors contemporary performances and feature films against a backdrop of history.

To read the entire article from the Journal-Sentinel, click here.

Thanks to THS Director, Don Bohatka for providing this story.

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