City will host Opera House history exhibit

Landmark set to celebrate 125th anniversary in 2019


The Sumter Opera House is approaching its 125th anniversary, and the community is invited to the first in a series of events celebrating that milestone. On Friday, Oct. 6, from 5 to 7 p.m., the City of Sumter will host a drop-in reception at the City Centre adjacent to the Sumter Opera House so community members can browse a new, permanent exhibit of the history of Sumter's most recognized landmark.

Sumter Mayor Joseph T. McElveen noted that "The Sumter Opera House has survived the Great Depression, hurricanes, fires and floods. This exhibit will highlight the history since the original wooden building opened in 1872 and the diverse uses of the current building which was finished in 1894. It's an extraordinary testament to the vision and determination of city officials over a century who pledged to maintain Sumter's history."

This project was completed through a collaboration with the Sumter County Museum, which provided many of the exhibit artifacts that will be on display. Many individuals in the community donated artifacts and information used in the exhibit, said Ellen Jansen, community improvement coordinator. She is co-project manager with Seth Reimer, cultural manager of the Sumter Opera House, of a $100,000 grant to the City of Sumter from the S.C. Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department and its Undiscovered South Carolina Program. Only part of the funds were used to mount the exhibit.

"We worked closely with Annie Rivers, director of the (Sumter County) museum for around a year," Jansen said. "A lot of that time was spent collecting artifacts. We were also able to speak with Archie LeGrand, who was the third generation of his family to work on the Opera House clock, and several others connected to the Opera House."

Reimer said he had seen similar exhibits, which "helped (him) envision the possibility for our building. It's not just for patrons at a show (at the Opera House), but also for the surrounding communities that stop by to tour during the day.

"I truly feel as though we are an undiscovered treasure here in the heart of South Carolina. A building with this much history must be given a chance to share its story with everyone who would walk through the doors."

The public - community members, visitors, historians and others - are invited to attend the 5-to-7 p.m. Oct. 6 open house drop-in at the City Centre, 21 N. Main St. Beginning Monday, Oct. 8, the exhibit will open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and during shows at the Sumter Opera House.

For more information about the Sumter Opera House, visit, call (803) 436-2616 or visit at 21 N. Main St., Sumter.