Listed on the national register for historic places, the Woodward Opera House is situated in the heart of Mount Vernon's Central Business District. This national landmark invites you to step back in time to the 1800s and experience the history! While viewing the Woodward, imagine what it must have been like to perform here. Take in the 19th century architecture, admire the original paintings still hanging on the walls, and if you listen quietly, you may hear a fiddle or banjo picking out a familiar tune.
Earlier performances such as vaudeville, minstrel shows, and traveling shows during this time period showed that Knox County's citizens took great interest in a wide variety of artistic culture. Dr. Ebenezer Woodward, a local entrepreneur, envisioned a commercial building suitable for housing large crowds for entertainment. This inspired him to lease the land at the southwest corner of South Main and West Vine where he later erected the Woodward Hall. The doors were open to the public on December, 1851. Thirty-two years after its opening debut, a major remodeling took place to provide even more space and adjust structural problems so that the Woodward could adopt an even wider variety of artistic endeavors.
The Woodward Horseshoe Balcony as it looks today Two additional buildings were encompassed, increasing square footage and adding a unique horseshoe balcony. The theater measures 90 x 43 feet. Comedies (direct from New York), melodrama, minstrelsy, a presentation of Uncle Tom's Cabin (pre-publication) and Al Field's Minstrel Company (which immortalized Daniel Decatur Emmett) were available as local entertainment in the new facility.
The Woodward Opera House is tied closely with local musician Dan Emmett who is known for his world famous song Dixie, as well as Old Dan Tucker and Turkey in the Straw. Another landmark performance that occurred at the Woodward was the first motion picture shown in Knox County during 1897-98. The Woodward Theater closed in the mid-1920s.
Current efforts to restore The Woodward began in the mid 1970s. A real focus on the project came when the Knox Performing Arts Coalition, Inc. was formed in 1994. A business plan was developed and grant money was sought. In 1997, a second entity was created, The Woodward Development Corporation, to facilitate the purchase and management at the Woodward building. The building was purchased in 1998. For more detail, read more about the project..
For more information, or if you would like to be a part of the restoration and renovation of the Woodward, call 740-392-6142 or 800-837-5282.