Constructed in 1889, this beautiful opera house played host to entertainers such as Red Skelton, Harry Houdini and composer John Philip Sousa amongst numerous others before the top floor of the building containing the theater closed in 1945. The remaining first two floors were used for both city hall administrative purposes and the town police station until the building was completely shuttered in the late 1960's. It has stood vacant ever since.
According to our gracious host and guide, MarkAnthony Izzo, a shipbuilder was brought in during the building's construction to give the theater its distinctive curve. This is reflected in the framework below the balcony, where it is evident that great care and craftsmanship were taken to build something truly grand and unique. Acoustically, this structure is unparalleled. The quietest whisper or lightest scuffle of a shoe is amplified tenfold inside the cavernous space that once seated 1250. Downstairs, numerous reminders of the former city hall and police station appear around every corner. A cramped, pitch black block of jail cells lend credence to the claims of paranormal activity in the building. Amongst the peeling paint and crumbling walls, doors containing the lost epitaphs of "mayors office" or "city clerk" appear hauntingly aged.
We were very fortunate to receive legal permission to photograph this beautiful treasure of a lost era. One can hope that Save Our Sterling, the Sterling Opera House Endowment Fund and the city of Derby will be successful in their bid for preservation and eventual reopening of this wonderful building in the not so distant future.