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Potluck: Opera House Restored


Valuable Venue Restored in Corning

Compiled by Carol Bodensteiner
and Mary Gottschalk

Between 1870 and 1920 Iowa had few intercommunity roads, but the state did have railroads. In fact, in the 1890s Iowa had more miles of rail line than any other state. And when a rail line ran through a town, an opera house often followed, says Sam Knutson, coordinator of the Iowa Opera House Project.

At one time Iowa had 1,500 opera houses. Roughly 300 of them still exist, with only 50 to 75 in use today. In the opera house heyday, Corning boasted three of those entertainment venues. Last spring Corning reopened one of its opera houses after a 10-year restoration project.

The Corning Opera House, built in 1902, has since become a regional attraction. At least half of the audience comes from outside Corning and Adams County to enjoy everything from musicians and illusionists to wedding receptions and reunion parties.

“Opera houses are as valuable today as they were 100 years ago,” says Knutson. “They provide what you can’t get anywhere else: a place where people meet in silent agreement to be surrounded by music.” 

Visit for more information. — C.B.

Photo courtesy De Heaton.


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