San Bernardino Opera House

Court & D Street / San Bernardino, CA

The Grand Ole Opera House

by Nicholas R. Cataldo

(Photograph courtesy of the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society)

The Inland Empire has a rich cultural past. In fact, if you lived in this area a century ago, you needn't travel far in order to see the great stars of the theatrical world. They came right here to the Opera House in San Bernardino.

An Opera House in San Bernardino? You betcha.

The Opera House at Court and "D" Streets was built four years before Los Angeles had one of its own and was for many years perhaps the finest and most elaborate theater in the Southland. Built by mountain man - turned civic leader - James W. Waters and Herman Brinkmeyer as an investment in 1882, the beautiful red-brick edifice with white facade topped by a golden eagle was famous throughout the country for presenting top quality shows and concerts. And the featured celebrities considered San Bernardino the best show town on the coast.

The theater was extensively remodeled inside and out in 1912. Long time San Bernardino resident [and Pioneer Women] Janet Miles recalled in her recently published memoirs that " There were box seats on the north and south walls with red velvet curtains at the rear. The orchestra pit was in front of the stage at floor level. Birdie Bohan and Edith Ulrich were the pianists, Ernest De Soto, the violinist, and Mr. Parsons played the drums." One of the biggest shows came in 1913 when Maude Adams starred at the Opera House in "Peter Pan". The San Bernardino Daily Sun reported on April 18:

"The appearance of Maude Adams in (James M.) Barrie's "Peter Pan" at the Opera House tonight is certain to attract one of the largest audiences that has ever filled the theater. Miss Adam's portrait of Peter, the boy who wouldn't grow up, is full of elfish charm and beauty."

Motion Pictures Come to the Opera House

Within a year, the theater began catering to a new entertainment craze--motion pictures--by showing silent movies as well as vaudeville.

The grand old Opera House was torn down in 1927 when Court Street was extended from "D" Street through to the "new" Court House on Arrowhead Avenue.


Return to Index of Theatres