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St. George Social Hall “Opera House”

At a time when colonizers of the Dixie Cotton Mission were struggling to survive, their leaders placed a high priority on culture. The Mormon prophet Joseph Smith taught that “Man is that he might have joy.” His successor Brigham Young interpreted this “joy” to be participation in and enjoyment of the cultural arts. The first locally produced drama was presented in a bowery made of tumble weed just nine months after the city’s birth. The historical Social Hall, or Opera House, was built in 1875 at the corner of Main and Diagonal Streets (one block north of here). It began as a wine cellar built by the Gardener’s Club where sacramental wine was stored. A 23×56 foot room was built above the cellar which became the stage and wings section, and a 35×50 foot addition to the west became the audience seating area. For nearly 50 years this was the center of social and cultural life in Dixie.

The building featured a mechanized floor which could be lowered several inches at the east end, allowing everyone an unobstructed view of the stage. With a seating capacity of 400, this was a delightful venue for local dramatic clubs as well as outside players. Opera and other musical entertainments were held there, as well as dances on the movable floor.

During the early part of this century, the stage of the St. George Stake Academy, as well as movie theaters began to replace the activities of the Opera House. The building was eventually sold to U&I Sugar Company and used as offices and storage for sugar beet seed.

Presently, the building is being restored as the central feature of the Pioneer Center for the Arts.

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This is S.U.P. Marker #72.03, for other markers in the series visit this page.  Other markers in the series located here in the St George Memorial Plaza are: