The Spearfish Arts Center and Matthews Opera House (612 Main St., 605/642-7973, www.spearfishartscenter.org , Arts Center Memorial Day–Labor Day Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., off-season Tues.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Opera House tours by appointment only) share a building in downtown Spearfish . The gallery features paintings and photographs by local Spearfish and regional Black Hills artists.
The Matthews Opera House currently hosts concerts and community theater events. Opened in 1906, the Opera House was built on the second floor of a sandstone building owned by Wyoming rancher Thomas Matthews. The theater featured colorful prefab murals, tin columns painted a rich cream color and accented in gold, incandescent lighting, hardwood floors, box seats, a balcony, and paintings of several playwrights, including Shakespeare.
The Opera House was used for stage productions and traveling shows through the 1920s. The next decade saw rapid declines in live performances as the general public became enamored with “moving pictures.” For about a decade, the Opera House was used as a movie house but was abandoned when the owner moved the movie house into a new and larger facility down the street.
Hard times continued to plague the small Opera House after the theater department of Black Hills State College built a theater that could seat twice as many patrons. Many small arts groups made efforts to revive the Opera House over the years but it required more work than small arts groups could afford.
The community came together in 1985 to start restoring the Opera House and completed the historic restoration of the little jewel of a theater in time for its centennial in 2006. The restoration added air conditioning, dressing rooms, and gallery space on the first floor, which now houses the Spearfish Art Center.
Tours of the Matthews Opera House (free, donations accepted) are by appointment only and can be arranged through the Arts Center. The tours take about half an hour and include information about the history and design of the theater.