Visit the ORG website dedicated solely to Bent’s Opera House– News, blogs, photos, restoration– all things Bent’s in one place: Bring Back Bent’s
• D.C. Bent’s Vision
Don Carlos Bent was a wealthy farmer and a man of varied interests. He resided on a splendid farmstead in the nearby hamlet of Shelby Center. For many years he desired that Medina should have a suitable opera house that would accommodate shows of merit. He secured the services of builder Patrick O’Grady, set out to explore opera houses in Western New York and prepared his plans to build a grand theater in Medina. Construction of the three- story structure began in 1864 and was completed in 1865. A February 1865 edition of the Medina Tribune stated, “It is rare that you see outside the limits of a city a building at once so elegant and capricious.” The first event of importance was held on March 21 the same year. P.T. Barnum of Barnum’s Museum in New York City came to Medina and spoke on the “Art of Money-Getting”.
• One of the oldest surviving theaters in the entire nation
Bent’s Opera House is one of the oldest surviving theaters in the entire nation, having been built at the height of the U.S. Civil War. From 1865 to the early 1920‘s it was the cultural center of the Medina area. Its construction is of native Medina Sandstone, and in that respect, shares a heritage with places like Buckingham Palace in London, the H. H. Richardson Towers, St. Louis Church and St. Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo, and countless other architectural masterpieces worldwide.
• A window to the world
Bent’s was arguably the most important and busiest place in Medina for over 50 years. It is not a stretch to say that more history was witnessed within these walls than any other place in Medina during this era- period. It was Medina’s window to the world during the Gilded Age of America; a time when the United States grew from an agrarian nation to an industrial and world power. The the years spanning from the post Civil War era to the period approaching the First World War is a fascinating time in American history. Medina… and Bent’s Opera House were very much a part of the era. Bent’s Opera House is listed on the National and NYS Registers of Historic Places as a contributing structure in the Medina’s Downtown Historic District.
• An astonishing degree of historic importance
Known as Bent’s Hall until 1873 when the finish work that exists today was completed, the building reopened as Bent’s Opera House. In researching its history, you will find that many well-known individuals of the day visited Bent’s. Some names you will recognize, others not so much. But bear in mind that during the period in which Bent’s was operating, these people were quite well-known and famous- they were the celebrities of the day. Today, the equivalent celebrities would be seen in a metropolitan venue. To most of us today, many of them are only names, but further research reveals an astonishing degree of historic importance with regard to who came here and what they did. Famed actors and actresses, musicians, singers, abolitionists, poets, authors, explorers, temperance orators, politicians, military heroes…
• A sampling of notables
Countless stars of the stage, orators, and musicians appeared at Bent’s. Among the many notables who appeared here were P. T. Barnum, Buffalo Bill Cody, renown violinists Remenyi (friend to Franz Liszt) and Camilla Urso, explorer/journalist George Kennan, German tenor Ludwig Hess, Hollywood actors J. D. MacLean, stage and screen star Harry D. Carey, orators/lecturers Rev. E. H. Chapin, John B. Finch, Theodore Tilton, John B. Gough, Academy Award winning screenwriter Edwin J. Burke, publisher and politician William Randolph Hearst, American lecturer, orator and abolitionist Anna Elizabeth Dickenson, author and poet Sara Jane Lippincott, and the Most Rev. Stephen V. Ryan, CM – Second Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, New York.
Hardly a day went by when something wasn’t happening at Bent’s. And then, of course there is Bent’s as an architectural gem of Medina Sandstone, built by Irish immigrant Patrick O’Grady- a story in itself. Take a good, long look at that building… appreciate what it was like to construct such an edifice in 1864-65… appreciate the history– a window to the world.