Loomer Opera House

The Loomer Opera House on Main Street, Willimantic was considered to be the finest theater between Hartford and Providence. It seated 1,200 people in lush surroundings. Many famous vaudeville acts played there, including Buffalo Bill Cody, Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel. Lumber magnate Silas Loomer built it in 1879. Movies were shown there in the 1920s, but it could not compete with the Capitol Cinema. The Opera House was demolished in 1940 and replaced by a new Woolworth's store.

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Silas Loomer (1824-1899):

Lumberman, Financier, Banker, Builder, Insurance Agent,
Theater Builder, and Politician
by: Tom Beardsley

From 1879 until 1940, Willimantic had one of the finest theaters in the state. Thanks to the city's excellent railroad connections, the nation's best touring plays and vaudeville companies performed at the city's Loomer Opera House, which stood on the western corner of the junction of Main and North Streets. The Loomer Block's shops and offices housed a large number of stores and businesses. After the Opera house's demolition in 1940, an art deco-style Woolworth store was erected, which today is the home of the empty Nassiff's sporting goods.

The Loomer Opera House
The grandest building on Main looks somewhat forlorn shortly before its demolition in 1940.

The Loomer Opera House was built by Silas Loomer, one of the prime movers in the growth of Willimantic in the years after the Civil War. Loomer was born at Hop River in Columbia, Connecticut in 1824. He was educated in the "old red school house" in Columbia, and at Ellington High School. He qualified to be a teacher, but the arrival of the railroads led to a change of career. He became involved in lumber and railroad supplies just as the Hartford, Providence and Fishkill railroad was being built in this part of the state. There was a demand for wood, ties, and lumber, and the enterprising Loomer made a fortune.

The railroads began his fortune. The arrival of the telegraph increased it. The telegraph companies needed poles to support their lines. Loomer provided them. In 1859 he represented Columbia in the General Assembly. In 1861 Loomer left Columbia for Willimantic and opened a coal, lumber, lime and cement business on North street in partnership with Hyde Kingsley. Loomer & Kingsley supplied the expanding railroad companies and textile industries. His fortune grew larger.

The Loomer Opera House
This excellent close up shot reveals some of the buildings fine architectural details.   Continue...