Corrine was founded on 25 March 1869. It started as a temporary railroad tie camp but transformed into a permanent settlement because it was on the shortest and most convenient freighting routes to Montana and Idaho. On 16 October 1869, the Utah Semi-Weekly Reporter argued for the need of a theater:
“Let us by all means have a theater this winter at Corinne. There are plenty of troupes that will make Corinne their winter quarters, and give us good entertainments, if only a suitable building can be obtained. This winter, many hundreds of men from the mines and travelers from all parts of the world will make Corinne their home for a time, and all of them will be good patrons for such an enterprise. It is a good thing, will help the town, and will pay. Who will fit up a room for an opera? Let us have
by all means.”
Despite repeated reminders from the newspaper, it wasn't until 14 May 1870 that the Corrine Opera House Association was organized. The Opera House was built on the southeast corner of Montana Street and Seventh Street, on land donated by C. B. Green. The architect and builder was Mr. Manheim. The building cost about $3000 and was 36 by 90 feet.
A grand celebration was held for the dedication of the Corrine Opera House on 4 July 1870. The town provided free meals and the Wellsville band was hired to furnish music.
The Opera House was incomplete when it was dedicated. The plastering was not finished until October 1870. In April 1871 it was announced that the Opera House would have "a new stage, with boxes, drop curtain, scenery and other dramatic paraphernalia." A proscenium arch with doors on each side leading backstage was later added. At some point a balcony was added and an archway of large timbers was built midway in the hall to keep the building from leaning in the wind.
The words “All the World's a Stage” were painted on the drop curtain, along with the likeness of Shakespeare. Scenery was changed by sliding combinations of painted flats on to the stage in grooves. Lighting was provided by coal-oil lamps which were hung overhead or placed behind tin reflectors to serve as footlights across the front of the stage.
Several attempts to organize a local dramatic association were unsuccessful, but the first traveling companies that stopped in Corinne were quite successful. The first entertainers to perform in the Opera House were the Lewis brothers on 2 July 1870, who provided a "grand constellation of tableux vivants, seances, musical renditions, solos and different performances." The first dramatic presentation was by C. W. Couldock and his daughter, Eliza, who performed selections from Shakespeare. The high point in the dramatic activity of Corinne was the one week engagement of the Carter Dramatic Troupe in January 1971. At no other time were so many plays presented with such success during one engagement.
“The season of the Carter Dramatic Troupe, which closed last evening, was a complete success financially as well as artistically. While that company played here, the Opera House was the nightly resort of the lovers of elegant amusement, and we are pleased to record the fact that the management left here fully gratified with the result of their engagement. The receipts were larger than those of any other company which has hitherto appeared in this city, and a respectable margin of profit compensated Mr. Carter for his efforts in giving our people the legitimate drama in its best form. In a season of ten nights, during which public interest was unabated, there is a good sign that our city has not only the means, but also the taste and disposition to support a first class theater like that of Mr. and Mrs. Carter.”
Residents of Corrine took pride in their Opera House and expected it to be very successful, but it later became apparent that the refined tastes of a few would not be enough to support continuous dramatic presentations. During the long hiatuses between visits of professional or amateur dramatic companies, the Opera House was used for other diversions, including skating, minstrel shows, olios, parlor entertainments, readings, and literary entertainments. During its first year, the Opera House hosted about one entertainment per week.
Audiences at the Opera House were not always well-behaved. The editor of the newspaper complained of yelling, whistling, catcalls, men walking up and down the hall with brogan boots, and people who would actually bring dogs to concerts. There was one report of a dog fight in the Opera House.
On 20 August 1872 the Corinne Opera House Association sold the Opera House to the city of Corrine for $2,730.23, for use as a school. It was reported in the newspaper that the "structure will be immediately remodeled for school purposes." On 19 March 1873, the principal of the school extinguished a fire in the basement below the stage.
C. A. Krighaum acquired the Opera House on 9 January 1884 and later sold it for $300 to J. W. Guthrie, a banker and mayor who bought many properties from departing residents. The Guthries later installed a new spring dance floor in the Opera House, probably after an irrigation canal was built in Corrine in 1888. In 1892, the Opera House was described as being a “neat, attractive hall. The building, both outside and in, has just been handsomely painted by the veteran artist, A. J. Caggie. As a ball room, the Guthrie hall is equal to any in the country and it makes a cozy theatre besides.”
In 1904 a branch of the railroad across the Great Salt Lake was completed and Corrine was no longer a stop on the transcontinental railroad. This brought an end to performances at the Corrine Opera House by traveling entertainers.
The Guthrie family sold the Opera House on 20 February 1913 to lawyer George E. Wright, who sold it on 28 February 1913 to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The building was remodeled and was dedicated as the Corrine Ward Chapel on 24 August 1913. The building was demolished in the fall of 1952.
"Frontier Theatre: The Corrine Opera House", by Rue C. Johnson, Utah Historical Quarterly, Volume 42 (Summer 1974)
1. Utah Semi-Weekly Reporter, October 16, 1896
2. "The Gentile City of Corine", by Bernice Gibbs Anderson, Utah Historical Quarterly, Volume 9, Numbers 3-4 (July, October 1941)
3. Utah Reporter, 30 January 1871
4. Daily Corinne Reporter, August 21, 1872
5. Daily Corinne Reporter, 30 March 1873
6. Brigham Bugler, May 28, 1892