The Story of the Sumter Opera House
An icon of Sumter, SC, the historic Sumter Opera House clock tower is clearly visible as you drive down the main stretch of the town. The story of the Sumter Opera House is truly one of change and highlights the supportive community around its growing success today.
Setting the Stage to Experience History
Seth Reimer, cultural director of the Sumter Opera House, spearheaded the development of the content with his team. The opera house held an artifact day, resulting in multiple contributions of photos, small objects, and historical accounts of local Sumterites. Annie Rivers, Director of the Sumter County Museum, wrote the copy for the exhibit.
The story begins with a blown-up postcard photograph of the main stretch of town. The first opera house, built of wood, burned down in the 1890s. After renovations in the 1930s, the new building experienced updates in the 40s and 70s. Artifacts include posters of past shows, a book and chair belonging to soprano Clara Louise Kellogg, and an old coin. As visitors move into the modern-day story, they can explore how the town was able to revitalize the building and utilize the space for live shows, movies, and theater performances. The clock tower also has a place on the stage, as visitors can take a peek into a scaled version of the clock mechanism. An old clock arm artifact gives visitors an understanding of the size of the clock face. Finally, the exhibit continues to tell a story, inviting visitors to share their memories and hear recollections of past visitors and performers.
"This is a living exhibit, continually changing, as more people record their memories," Ellen Janson, Community Improvement Coordinator for the city (The Sumter Item)