Landmarks : The Selby Opera House

Posted by Michael Zimny on
Selby Opera House, 1986
Fritz Clement

The Selby Opera House first opened to the public on December 7, 1908, with a dramatic performance by “the celebrated Dougherty Stock Company.”

At the turn of the century, Selby was a one of several towns in Walworth County — including Java, Glenham and Evarts — which sprung up when the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway (CM&StP) extended from Bowdle to the Missouri River.

milwaukeeroadmap1924_120.jpg

The Selby began showing films in 1914. A Vitaphone was later installed, in 1930, so the theater could show “talkies.” During WWII, the Opera House was remodeled and reopened.

Over the years, the two-story brick building — with Classical Revival features like cornice with dentrils and stone lintel and sills on the windows — has served as an opera house, community play house, pool hall, public library, music instruction studio, movie theater, roller skating rink and auditorium for public meetings, basketball games, concerts, pageants and club meetings. 

From 1910 until 1951, the Opera House also housed the switchboard — and sleeping quarters for the night operator — of the local telephone office.

selbyopera.JPGThe Selby Opera House today.

The city of Selby purchased the building in 1919, and has owned it ever since, though management has passed through several hands.

After the 1942 reopening the Selby Record called the Opera House, “one of the finest community auditoriums in this part of the state,” and to this day it still is. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

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