In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Entertainment- Alameda and Opera House

Text by Claire Keating and Billy Price
7th Grade students at Bath Middle School
With images from the Patten Free Library

Bath Opera House reopening, 1926
Bath Opera House reopening, 1926
Maine Maritime Museum

In the late 19th and early 20th century, theaters were becoming a new and exciting thing in most towns. Bath was home to many theaters that came and went as the city and its residents changed. These included the Music Hall, Uptown Theater, Columbia Hall, and our focus, the Bath Opera House, and its precursor, the Alameda.

The Bath Opera House was torn down in 1971 because its owners were not making enough profit. It had been located at 66 Centre Street since 1913, when construction finished. Before that, the Alameda was there. The Alameda was built in 1882, and was also a largely popular building in Bath. Now the property is host to the credit union and its parking lot.

The Alameda was built in 1882 by John O. Patten, Harry H. Donnell, Frank H. Haggett, Harry E. Stetson, and Thomas W. Morse. The Alameda was in operation from 1882 until 1913. In 1913, the Bath Opera House took over the property. There were many people involved in the construction, but F.M. Churchill of Portland was the lead architect. The Opera House had its grand opening in September of 1913. The Bath Opera House was literally built on top of where the Alameda once stood. The manager of the Bath Opera House for many years was George E. Sargent. When the Opera House was built, he said according to a newspaper from a 1952 scrapbook, “I'm the proudest man in town!”

The Alameda was very famous for being home to Bath's Roller Polo team. The games were reported at length in the newspapers of the time Roller Polo was introduced by Fred D. Hill, who brought the sport back from Cornell University. Walter Murtaugh was a very important member of the Alameda's Roller Polo team; he was a member all throughout 1898, and was reported to have excellent playing skills. Two players from the Roller Polo Team actually continued on to join the National Roller Polo League. Their names were “Billy” Leydon and Holman Dunning. The people of importance at the Bath Opera House and Alameda all played important roles.

The Alameda was host to a variety of events. According to Henry Owen, the Alameda was the location of most of Bath's important public gatherings. It held countless Morse graduations, benefits, and celebrations. It was once visited by nationally recognized actress Georgia Cayvan, who had been raised in Bath. Her stay occurred shortly after a stage was built inside. The Opera House also had magnificent vaudeville. Their opening act of as of 1913 was “Odiva,” the queen of mermaids. According to The Bath Daily Times of November 24, 1913, she showed a “magnificently staged scenic production, introducing a peerless display of watermanship, including thrilling dives and feats of grace, ability and endurance under water.”

One of the most popular events was showing motion pictures. It was often referred to as the “Palace Theater,” to honor its regal stature and atmosphere. Theaters were often called “Movie Palaces” in the early 20th century when they were new and truly beautiful. The entrance was very elaborate at the Bath Opera House with the stained glass, but the rest of the exterior was plain. Earlier ones were referred to as “Nickelodeons” because just their storefronts were revamped to just look like they were fancy. Their interiors were usually not decorated so royally though.

On March 27, 1925, a tragic event occurred. The Bath Opera House had a raging fire. The inside of the Opera House was wood, while the outside was brick. The heating system caught fire and quickly ignited the wood. At 2:00 AM a fire alarm was set off. The Bath Fire Company responded to the fire alarm and tried their hardest to extinguish the fire and save the building. The brick on the outside made it very challenging. Sending their men inside in a raging fire such as this was too risky, and that unfortunately was where the base of the fire was. The Opera House was burned to the ground before the fire was extinguished. Fortunately, the Bath Opera House was reopened later in 1925 to become better than ever before. Then, on September 1, 1954, it was hit by Hurricane Carol. The damage was not as horrible as the fire, but misfortune it was. The Bath Opera House was struck yet again on Saturday, September 11, 1954, by Hurricane Edna, and again faced near destruction. The water flooded up to stage level, and flooded the first 14 rows of seats. It also filled the orchestra pit and covered the piano. The manager of the time at one point put a sign on the door giving the message that the theatre was closed because the piano was floating. The Bath Opera House yet again had to restore its theatre within the next year.