Awards of Excellence:
Brown Grand Opera House

Year(s) Listed:
Location Class:
Built: 1905-1907 | Year Saved: 2014
Historic Designation: National Register of Historic Places (1973)
Contributor: Kansas Preservation Alliance

Multi-year projects are nothing new in the world of historic preservation, but occasionally a project comes along that spans from years into decades, with incredible results.  The Brown Grand Opera House was built in 1905-1907 by “Colonel” Napoleon Bonaparte Brown, a colorful local businessman who had arrived in Concordia in 1876 from Missouri with his bride Katherine and a rumored suitcase full of money. Brown’s generosity for the community was believed to have been spurred by the construction of rival opera houses in nearby Beloit and Lincoln. Construction of the theater was overseen by his son, Earl Van Dom Brown. At a total cost of $40,000, the theater, built of local limestone and bricks, held its grand opening on September 17, 1907. Only four years after the opening, both Colonel Brown and his son Earl were dead, leading to a long list of other owners and uses, its final use being as a movie theater until the last showing in 1974. A year earlier, in 1973, the theater was listed on the National Register, and in 1975 it passed into the ownership of the City of Concordia, its restoration being selected as a community Bicentennial Project. Phase I of the project, consisting of an exterior restoration, began in 1976, including a new roof and the restoration of the façade back to its original appearance. Phase II followed, with a complete interior restoration including plaster repair, gold leaf stenciling, and the reproduction of the original painted “Napoleon” curtain that had been water damaged in a tornado. The most recent project, in 2014, included a structural upgrade of the stage, along with backstage facility improvements. The final result after over 30 years of community effort is a fully modern theater, appearing just as it did on opening night in 1907.

State historic preservation tax credits were utilized to fund this rehabilitation.

The project team included: The City of Concordia, Abram Concrete, Alsop Sand Company Inc., Brown Enviro-heating & Plumbing, Campbell & Johnson Engineers, Central Kansas Electric, Dudley Williams and Associates P.A., Gopher Stage Rigging, Heartland Scenic, J.R. Robl Grantwriting, Kansas Coring & Cutting LLC, Martin Eby Construction, Peltiers Foundry & Machine, Pryor Automatic Fire Sprinkler Inc., R & L Fire & Security Specialists LLC, Service Master of NCK, Tom’s Music House, Duclos Foundation, Kansas State Historical Society, Cloud County Convention & Tourism, Community Foundation for Cloud County, and the Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism.

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