The only log opera house in the world

Canmore Opera House
Rob Alexander collection

While not exactly high-definition colour, this is the only colour photograph of the  Canmore Opera House I’ve seen, while it is still intact and its original location. The Canmore Museum has a colour photograph – taken in 1964 – as the Opera House was being dismantled for its move to Heritage Park in Calgary.

The Canmore Opera House – built in 1898 with logs cut on the slopes of Ha-Ling Peak – was first known as the Band Hall as a place for members of the H.W. McNeill brass band to practice. Three years after the Band Hall was completed, the 40 ft. by 26 ft. building served as a morgue following a massive underground explosion in the No. 1 Mine in 1901 that killed eight miners.

Once electricity came to Mineside (south of the Bow River and the area home to the mine workings) in 1915, a movie projector was installed in the Band Hall.

The name of the Band Hall was changed to the Canmore Opera House in 1922 after an addition was added, making it the only log opera house in the world. The Canmore Opera House would see the beginning of the end during the Great Depression when its doors closed in 1932. The Opera House would not reopen until the 1940s, but only for movies on Wednesday evenings and on Saturdays.

The doors to the Canmore Opera House closed for the last time in 1960 and by 1963, it seemed the only log opera house in the world would be demolished. However, Heritage Park bought the building – which saw an extensive renovation recently – in 1964 and moved it to Calgary.

And while Canmore no longer has its opera house, Spring Creek Mountain Village is putting on the finishing touches on its community hall: A replica of the Canmore Opera House, complete with a single log over the door from the original Opera House.

Spring Creek Mountain Village community hall, a replica of the Canmore Opera House

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About Rob Alexander

I am a writer, photographer and historian and the author of The History of Canmore, published by Summerthought Publishing of Banff, AB.
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