A tour of the Springer Opera House can be anything you want it to be: a jaunt through history, a theatrical look backstage or a visit with ghosts. Whether your interest is art or architecture, local heritage or the big names, you’ll find it all on a docent-led excursion through the three stories of this historic building.
Built in 1871, the Springer was modeled after European opera houses of the era — that’s what sold tickets then, said Scooter MacMillan, marketing director.
It was the premier theater for the area, providing a stop-off point for productions traveling from New York City to New Orleans.
The National Historic Landmark has been renovated a few times over the years, but the furniture, carpeting, wall covering and other features remain true to the time period. In the saloon, for example, the bar and surrounding fixtures were made in 1901.
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Memorabilia in glass cases and paintings dot the lobby and Hall of Legends, which houses portraits of many of the “greats” who performed or lectured on the Springer stage. Among them are Buffalo Bill, Will Rodgers, Burt Reynolds, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Oscar Wilde, Booker T. Washington and Truman Capote.
Named for a patron who rallied the community to save the Springer from demolition in 1964, the elegant Emily Woodruff Hall is grandiose when empty and dimly lit. Take time to notice the detailed stenciling on the wall and ceiling, the magnificent brass chandelier and the gilded box seats. The main theater includes, on its uppermost floor, benches preserved from 1871, when segregated seating was still in force in the South.
In the second floor lobby, your tour guide can show you how theater seats have evolved through the years with an informational exhibit. Outside you may notice a place where the bricks don’t quite match and even see the entrance to a former fire station.
But the real treat isn’t what you see but what you perceive through your mind’s eye. So take a different look at the Springer. Close your eyes and smell the gas lamps, hear the ships’ whistles and horses’ hooves on cobblestone streets and immerse yourself in the Columbus of nearly 140 years ago. It just may inspire you to see what the Springer of today has to offer.
The tour, which generally lasts half an hour, can be as short as 15 minutes or as long as two hours.