Hidden In Plain Sight December 29 2009, 0 Comments

I usually feel that I have lost the last three weeks or so of December hurrying about between customers and holiday preparations. Racing to finish a solid business quarter at the end of the year is a sprint. But, in the midst of losing those last few weeks, I found a photographic treasure  that has been hiding in my home town since long before I was born.

I come north every year to spend Christmas with family. I love Christmas but not the annual freeze fest I endure while being there. My father, now “retired,” and nearly 77, is a builder. He is frequently called out of retirement to manage projects in the small village of Avon where he has lived all of his life.  His latest was to manage the restoration of the “Opera Block”, a historic building in the center of the village. When I was a child, this building served as the bank on one side and a hardware store on the other. I never knew that it had been anything else. I suppose I wondered what was on the second and third floors at one time or another, but it was a passing thought at best. However, my father has just given me the grand tour.

The entrance shows off marble, original to the building. An old bank vault encased in brick stood in the basement. A larger bank vault still in use remains on the main floor. Split level floors, staircases hidden in every corner, ideal for hide-and-go-seek! We peeked into every room now refurbished and polished. We walked down every hallway. The third floor was our last stop, a portion of the building yet to be renovated. As we walked toward the double doors, the entrance to the main room, I noticed a peculiar cubby on the wall. My father explained that it was the old ticket box. Not comprehending what he had just said, I followed him through the wooden doors and there before me was the opera house and stage built in 1876.

I couldn’t grab my camera fast enough! Though faded and worn from decades of waiting to be rediscovered, the intricate detail along the walls, and ornate moldings decorating the stage showed off its grandeur. The dressing room complete with signatures on the walls from actors dating back to the 1880’s were all photographs waiting to happen.

I had always assumed that the “Opera Block” had that name, because several of the buildings on that street had false fronts. These buildings were made to look like they were three stories high. Yet, in driving behind the buildings, many were only two stories high.

But this was indeed a real opera house. How could I have not known this? In a row of buildings I have always known, I now have seen the treasure within, the real Opera Block…a world of art being renewed, restored, and hidden in plain sight, in the middle of a small town.