Westwood’s Opera House

Westwood’s Opera House. Courtesy of David Zoller

If there was ever a great misnomer for a building it was one of Red River Lumber Company’s first public buildings in Westwood was dubbed the Opera House. It should be noted that when Westwood was being built in 1912-14, it was remote. There were no highways, and in the winter the only access by train. It was designed this way on purpose to keep undesirable elements, including unions out of the community. However, Red River would need to provide entertainment venues for its employees, if they wanted to recruit and retain.

The Opera House was the first of such venues. It was a multi-purpose facility, though it never showcased an opera. The Opera House had a seating capacity of 600 and was the initial hub of social gatherings. It was regularly used as a movie theater and the scene of special events such as boxing matches. It was also the home for church services for several years until the People’s Church was built. In time, the Opera House was just too small as the town’s population continued to increase. In 1925, a new theater was constructed with a seating capacity of 1,100. The Opera House was converted into a store and made part of the adjoining facility known as the Westwood Club. The structure was destroyed by fire on March 31, 1944.

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