“the social hub for Washington County”
This building was the primary location for socials, performances, and dances held on a movable floor. The Opera House was (and still is) the social hub for Washington County and the tri-State area. In 1861, President Brigham Young called 300 Mormon families to settle the Virgin-Santa Clara River area to grow cotton and grapes. Elder George A. Smith, for whom St. George is named, presided over southern Utah. Elder Erastus Snow and Elder Orson Pratt led the company into Dixie. Dixie was a barren land -- dry, windy, dusty, and suffocatingly hot during the summer. Conditions were grim. Water was scarce and unpalatable. Sickness and death were common, there was little food and little hope. The Saints needed an escape from their heavy burdens. Entertainment and cultural development provided the answer. Brigham Young had purposely included people with a wide diversity of talents and ethnic backgrounds -- musicians, writers, actors, artists, teachers, vocalists, poets, and others with an aptitude for the arts -- originating from the eastern and southern U.S., Scandinavia, Great Britain, and Switzerland. Elder Erastus Snow organized lectures, dances, parties, lyceums, and concerts to prop up the spirits of the people. The first play, "Eaton Boy", was presented in 1862 in a make-shift bower made of posts and brush near where the Tabernacle now stands. Such was the need and appetite for entertainment in this struggling little community.
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St. George Opera House
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