The Batcher Block Opera House: A cultural and intellectual heart of the city
1 Dec 2021
When it opened in 1907, this 30,000 square foot building, with original mural and fresco work adorning its intrinsic interiors was the front runner of all things opera. The opera house had closed its doors during the great depression. More than a century later, the Batcher Block Opera house, is poised to make a new beginning, as a partnership with The Staples Economic Development Authority, and local business and community leaders get underway for an economic revival of the downtown area. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places Batcher Block Opera House has been regaled as one of the best-preserved opera houses in the state of Minnesota. The Opera House is one of only 13 opera houses of its kind in the United States.
An awakening from dormancy: Preserving a historic character
Nestled in a city block in downtown Staples, the 114-year-old Opera House stands as “one of the best-preserved rural opera houses in Minnesota,” and during its heyday, contributed significantly with myriad cultural offerings to the city of Staples and areas surrounding it. It was recognized for its national reputation for acoustical excellence. As the dormant building is on the crux of restoration, a number of stakeholders and partner groups are coming together, on a journey to enhance and thus preserve the historic personality of the building. All the necessary changes and upgrades are being made, as the building gets ready to function with a brand new purpose.
Towards a full restoration of the building
The city of Staples has announced an initiative towards the full restoration of the building to serve the community through public and private events as well as educational programs, art-related events, tours, and donations. The building will host classrooms, office space, a catering kitchen, rooftop event space, and the grand hall to host performances from regional and national artists, as well as community events such as weddings and performances from local music and theater ensembles.
By offering over 300 events a year, the Opera House will reclaim its place as the “cultural and intellectual heart” of the city. In addition, the Opera House will spur growth, not only for the Staples-Motley region but for the greater region and the state of Minnesota.
The building will support a variety of uses, which include:
- A restored, highly unique performance space with diverse programming and rentals
- Flexible classroom / event space available for community and private events, including a demonstration culinary kitchen
- Concessions area to service events and rentals in the building
- Lodging space to host touring artists and educators as well as, long-term, an artist residency program
- Office and meeting space for Batcher Block staff as well as potentially for other area organizations
- Outdoor gathering and performance space
- An Opera House “Museum” added to other historical elements, drawing in tour groups
By attracting local, regional, and national audiences to the space, the Batcher Block Opera House will play a paramount role in the continued revitalization of downtown Staples through arts and culture, helping the city to attract and retain the next generation of the workforce for whom cultural amenities is essential in deciding where to live, work, and play.