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Part one of this story provided information on the first three known opera houses of old Opelousas. The story continues with information on another opera houses that operated in the town from the 1892 until 1895

The Littell Opera House

The story of the Opelousas Opera Houses continues: By the end of the 1880s and into the early 1890s, the appeal of the Opelousas Opera House and Perrodin’s Hall was starting to fade. The talk of the town at that time became “a new more modern opera house is needed.”

Hearing the cries for a new venue, Opelousas physician Dr. R. M. Littell, known locally as Dr. Bob, announced his intention to build a new two-story building on property he had recently purchased on Main Street, in the center of the west side block running from Landry Street to Bellevue Street. Building plans called for a drug store on the first floor, with a new opera house on the top floor.

On November 21, 1891, the St. Landry Democrat newspaper reported that the foundation was being laid for the new drugstore and Opera House being built for Dr. Littell. The building, which measured 40×80 feet and two stories high, was being constructed on Main Street, between Bellevue and Landry streets.

In January and February of 1892, the newspaper gave regular updates on the building of the new opera house saying on January 2nd, “Littell’s drugstore and opera house is rapidly nearing completion. The sounds of the saw and hammer were heard in it all day yesterday.” The February 27th reports stated, “Dr. R. M. Littell’s new and commodious opera house, on Main Street, is steadily approaching completion. It is ornamental and must prove attractive to pay-going people. It is the only one of the kind, whose dimensions are entirely sufficient for the accommodation of large audiences. We trust his timely enterprise may speedily meet with a satisfactory reward.”

1892 Advertisement for a performance at the Littell’s Opera House in Opelousas.

Opelousas residents waited patiently for the completion of the building. In April of 1892, that time finally arrived and the Littell Opera House and Drugstore were opened for business. Besides being a drug store, the bottom floor also housed R. Mornhinveg Jewelry Store. The entire top floor space was devoted to the opera house. It had rough, wooden, pew-like benches, with a seating capacity of 400. The stage was large, with two square, white posts decorated with fretwork. It had a large drop curtain, with a painting in the middle surrounded by advertisements. The cost to enjoy a performance in the new building ranged from 35 cents to 75 cents, depending on the seats. There was also a balcony in the opera house where seats sold at higher premium prices.

May 28, 1892 advertisement for the Littell Drug Store on the first floor of the new Opera House on Main Street in Opelousas.

The new, large opera house was a welcome addition to the town. It provided an up-to-date venue for dramatic presentations, musical performances, balls, dances, concerts, etc. Professor Mayer, as well as other area musicians made sure the place was always fills with the best entertainment. The venue served not just Opelousas, but people from all of Southwest Louisiana and other areas of the state. 

After only three years, the Littell Opera House and drug store was up for sale. The Opelousas Courier on March 16, 1895 announced on its front page, “An opportunity to make a fine investment is offered by Dr. R. M. Littell, whose large new opera house can be had at a bargain.”

Littell Opera House for Sale in 1895.

The drug store business sold first.  A newspaper announcement on December 14, 1895 said Mason McBride had opened a drug store under Littell’s Opera House, next to Mornhinveg’s Jewelry Store.  The opera house however remained on the market for some time.

As the calendar pages changed from 1895 to 1896, the Littell Opera House continued to operate. In February of that year, the St. Landry Clarion announced the following: “Borrow your neighbor’s face and attend the Masquerade Ball on Mardi Gras night (February 18th) at Littell’s Opera House.” In March of that year, the newspaper announced another Masquerade Ball would be held at Littell’s Opera House on Thursday night, March 19th. That was the last ad that appeared for the Littell Opera House in Opelousas.

Dr. R. M. Littell sold his Opera House to Leonce Sandoz in late February of 1896. Newspapers in Opelousas and other areas of Louisiana announced the sale. The Tensas Gazette in St. Joseph, LA, ran the following: “The splendid Main Street property, Littell’s Opera House, has been purchased by Mr. Leonce Sandoz, of the Opelousas Courier. The price paid was $3,200.00 cash. It is the intention of the new proprietor, with the assistance of his manager, Mr. Adolphe Jacobs, to put the opera house on a better footing than it has even been.”

It took about a month for everything to be arranged, and in April of 1896, the Littell Opera House became the Sandoz Opera House. Mason’s Drug Store on the first floor of the building became the Opera House Drug Store in 1900 and operated for several years. The R. Mornhinveg Jewelry Store eventually moved to another location on Main Street. A restaurant opened on the bottom floor of the Sandoz Opera House building as Opelousas entered a new century.

It is important to note that over the years, the citizens of Opelousas have often made references to the Sandoz Opera House, but it seems the original name of Littell Opera House was somehow lost in time. (To be continued)

Littell Opera House in the center of this photograph on Main Street in downtown Opelousas. (Carola Lillie Hartley Collection.)