History of the
426 Second Ave.
Established in 1895, the opera house known as The Ariel Theatre is located in the historic business district of the French town of Gallipolis, Ohio. Built in 1895 by W.H. Slaymaker and Co., the original owner of the four story building was the Ariel Lodge of Oddfellows, and hence the place was known as the Ariel Opera House. Groundbreaking for the Ariel Opera House was held in July, 1895.
The first floor of the Ariel Opera House held the 1000 seat auditorium. The stage was some 48 by 30 feet with a curtain opening of 30 by 21 feet. The second floor was used as a banquet hall and also housed a kitchen, two parlors and a women's rest room. The third floor or garret had a hall, two anterooms, regalla depository, camp and subordinate lodge rooms and toilet.
The cost of the Ariel Opera House was $28,000, making it the most expensive building in Gallipolis history (aside from the Court House and schools) up to that time.
The first event at the Ariel Opera House was held December 24, 1895, and was highlighted by a Schubert program featuring DeWitt Kennedy, Louise Purcell, and Tony Purcell. There was not a large crowd.
The Ariel was officially dedicated on April 23, 1896, with Oddfellows from several surrounding cities on hand. A large parade through town complete with Oddfellow bands was the highlight of the day. The Ariel has hosted such luminaries as Will Rogers, Sarah Bernhard and "Dixie" composer Daniel Emmett. Ensembles such as the Chicago Opera and the Ziegfield Follies have graced the Ariel's stage. Vaudeville led to movies and the Ariel's eventual closing which occurred in 1963.
On June 6, 1990 the grand opening of the newly restored Ariel Theatre was heralded by the Ohio Valley Symphony, the only professionally orchestra in Southeast Ohio.
Today, the Ariel Theatre is the shining star at the very heart of a region that cherishes its heritage and plays host to a busy schedule of programs and events.