Looking Back: Bennett’s Opera House


This Looking Back features Bennett’s Opera House, which was located at 321 North Main St. in Urbana. The 1991 photo shows the building next to Mumford’s Potato Chips & Deli. It was built in 1881 by Dr. P.R. Bennett Jr. for the specific purpose of serving as an opera house. The date of 1881 is across the top of the front of the building.

A newspaper article on page 3 of the Dec. 1, 1881 issue of The Champaign Democrat describes its opening on Thanksgiving evening Nov. 24, 1881. The following are excerpts from that article:

“Thanks to the energy, enterprise, and indomitable will of Dr. P.R. Bennett jun., Urbana is at last furnished with a creditable house for amusements, literary and musical entertainments. The proprietor made a popular move in securing eminent musical talent to give the opening concert, and a fine audience was present to hear Miss Annie Louisa Cary and the Boston Temple Quartette, assisted by the eminent pianist Carlyle Petersilea, of the Petersrilea Musical Academy of Boston. The audience was appreciative. The elite, the wealth, the culture, the beauty, the youth of the city were represented. Visitors from Springfield, Dayton, Bellefontaine, West Liberty, St. Paris and other surrounding places were present.”

Dr. Porton Rivolo Bennett Jr. was a physician who practiced in Urbana and other locations. Bennett’s Opera operated until 1893 at which time the building became the location of the armory of Company D 3rd Reg. Inf of the Ohio National Guard.


The Champaign County Historical Museum is a not-for-profit organization that depends upon donations and dues to preserve, protect, archive and display the artifacts that tell the Champaign County story. The free public museum located at 809 E. Lawn Ave., Urbana, is open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Info from Champaign County Historical Society (CCHS).

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