- Associated Press - Thursday, August 28, 2014

LEAD, S.D. (AP) - The Homestake Opera House in Lead, which barely survived a fire 30 years ago, is celebrating its 100th birthday this weekend.

The three-level opera house and recreation center opened its doors in the mining community on Aug. 31, 1914, and the facility quickly became a cultural hub in the Black Hills of western South Dakota. In addition to the theater, it had a library and a swimming pool.

The building was heavily damaged by a fire in April 1984, and officials have been restoring it for the past 10 years. Last December, they kicked off a $4.2 million fundraising campaign to renovate the stage.

“This weekend is about the last 100 years. People believe in the Opera House. They believed in it after the fire, and they believe in it now as we approach the next century,” Executive Director Sarah Carlson told the Black Hills Pioneer (https://bit.ly/1tGjWqE ). “So many people have so many different stories here.”

Dennes Barrett, the facilities manager, is one of them. Barrett’s father worked in the Homestake mine that funded and built the opera house, his mother ran the YMCA on the upper level of the building, and an older brother worked as a pin-setter in the opera house bowling alley. He and his five brothers all learned to swim in the pool.

Barrett said he fondly recalls hot summer days spent watching movies in the theater, which made every other movie house in the state seem bland.

“We’d go down to see a movie in Kadoka with our friends and say, ‘hey, where’s all your stuff? This is just a box. Come up to our theater - we have angels, we have murals, paintings, real gold.’ And then they’d come here to watch a movie and wouldn’t watch the movie - they’d sit there and gawk at the building.”

David Scherer, current director and former president of the Historic Homestake Opera House Board of Directors, is another Lead resident who grew up in the opera house and found his way back years later.

“As a child of Lead, the opera house and recreation center was part of how I identified with my community, and I hope that in the near future other young people can feel the same way,” he said.

The weekend centennial celebration begins with a Friday night party and concludes Sunday with photo and video historical presentations. There also will be tours Saturday, Sunday and Monday.


Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, https://www.bhpioneer.com

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