The Memorial Opera House in Downtown Valparaiso has been a lot of things in the past. From playing vaudeville shows, being a movie theatre and now a center for performing arts, Memorial Opera House seems to have a rich past. What some may not know about this Valparaiso landmark is that is was originally built by Chaplin Brown Post 106 as a monument to the Union soldiers and sailors who served during the Civil War.
Named and know by then, Memorial Opera House was “Memorial Hall.” Built in 1893, it first served as a place where allied orders met, before becoming a theatre that hosted famous actors and acts from around the country.
The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R) founded in 1866 and was a fraternal organization of union veterans who served during the civil war. Later, the organization was preceded by today’s Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW). These men are descendants of Union Civil War veterans.
Saturday the 25th marked a special day for both The Memorial Opera House and the SUVCW because Memorial Hall was rededicated as a meeting place and grounds of this special organization.
“These gentlemen and the direct decedent of G.A.R and they built our building as a community center piece for Valparaiso. So having them return to the building and rededicating it to its initial purpose is a big deal for both the sons and for us,” Michelle Smith, Executive Director at the Memorial Opera House, said.
As members got ready for the ceremony, The Valparaiso Community-University Concert Band, directed by Jeff Doebler, played some classic American songs to set the atmosphere for this historic group.
“The Department of Indiana is just one of many departments of many states that make up the whole department. Those in term feed the national organization, which is well over 6,000 individuals from coast to coast,” Bill Adams, Commander of the SUVCW Department of Indiana, said.
The Sons of Veterans Reserve opened the ceremony with the presentation of the colors and many took to the stage to say a few words about the dedication and the different organizations involved. After that, the ribbon cutting ceremony took place and a rifle salute followed.
“My great grandfather, Louis Ladauer, was a member of the G.A.R post and he had an apartment here in Valparaiso above Gil Drug Company. I can just envision him being here. He was a member of the Indiana 9th Infantry,” Randall Eckley, Junior Vice-Commander, said.
The history of Memorial Opera House, or Memorial Hall, is one filled with individuals fighting and supporting our country. With the rededication, the building remembers those individuals and continues to learn from their sons.