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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


The Loomer Opera House
Its July, 1940, and only the first floor remains of the Loomer Opera House Block. The building next to it, the Shea Block, was demolished in 1951 and is now the site of Quinebaug Community Technical College.

 

Loomer became bored with lumber and coal. In 1878 he sold out and launched an insurance company, and ploughed much of his immense fortune into a fine new theater and commercial block. Loomer purchased a prime Main street site, fronting 72 feet, and extending back 240 feet on North street. The Loomer Opera House was long considered to be the finest theater in eastern Connecticut although the residents of Danielson claimed it was no match for their Music Hall. The Opera House was designed by F. H. Kimball, and seated 1,100 people. It was famous for its large stage, 60 foot wide and 40 foot deep. It had excellent acoustics, and was a favorite venue for touring companies members of which always lodged at the nearby Hooker House Hotel. In the early years of the 20th century, the management began showing silent movies, but the days of vaudeville were ending. The Loomer Opera House could no longer compete with custom built movie houses such as Willimantic's Gem and Capitol theaters.

The Loomer Opera House demolition
A view south down North Street showing the last stages of demolition.

The vast Opera House complex was expensive to heat and maintain, and in the late 1930s it was pulled down and replaced with a modern structure. The Loomer Opera House had dominated the Willimantic skyline for 61 years. It was one of the first buildings to be seen as rail passengers steamed into the city.

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