The Opera House of Mason, Michigan: 1881-1975
If you're visiting Mason and you look down west Maple Street from Jefferson Street, glance to the left (south) side. Behind Ware's drugstore is a parking lot; but this parking lot holds a heckuva lotta history...for this was once the site of the historically famous Rayner Opera House.
The opera house was named for C.J. Rayner --- a descendant of businessman John Rayner, who came to Mason in 1840. C.J.'s opera house seated up to 800 people and opened on January 14, 1881, with the very first performance being the stage version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Various road shows, musicals, stage plays, vaudeville acts, magicians and more came through Mason and appeared at the Rayner.
Forty-two years later, entertainment changed...movies were hot stuff. Therefore, thanks to films becoming the major source of entertainment - and pressure from patrons - the opera house switched to motion pictures and was renamed the Pastime Movie Theater in 1922. Then, on December 5, 1931, a fire broke out and ruined the theater to such a degree that major renovations were necessary. When it finally reopened on May 27, 1932, it was renamed the Mason Theater.
Sometime between 1939 and 1941 it was re-named the Fox Theater and re-renamed the Farr Theater in 1958, retaining that name until the establishment closed down for good a few years later.
The Mason State Bank purchased the building in the mid-1960's and finally demolished the whole thing in 1975, including the armory (built by Harper Reed in 1895) which sat on the right side of the theater. It’s sad that such an historic place was demolished for future generations to miss out on.
RAYNER OPERA HOUSE, MASON
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