Officially named Meaford Hall Arts & Cultural Centre, this Ontario theater is also called Meaford Hall Opera House and Meaford Hall. The historic building, dating back to 1908, is located in Meaford, Ontario, two hours northwest of Toronto, on the shores of Georgian Bay.
In 2006, a $6 million renovation converted Meaford Hall Opera House into a state-of-the-art theater and restored the cherry wood railing and gilded crown moldings on the balcony. The Meaford Hall theater now hosts year-round musical performances and films, as well as amateur and professional theater.
|Historic jail cell in Meaford, Ontario|
|Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll|
Renovations also added two reception halls, a meeting room, boardroom, kitchen and bar, for social gatherings, corporate functions and art exhibitions. A new wing houses the theater box office, dressing rooms and elevator.
Besides the opera house, Meaford Hall used to house the Town Hall. On the west wall of the boardroom, visitors can still see the original doors leading to the six historical walk-in vaults, used by the town council for municipal records. You can still read: J&J Taylor, Toronto Safe Works on the heavy steel door.
In the basement, there is a door labelled with a sign for the Meaford Police Dept. Inside, three doors with black iron bars swing open to reveal jail cells, complete with original wooden cots.
The cells were last occupied pre-WWII. In the late 90s, the theater used the police department, as a gift shop, and the cells for storage.
Meaford Hall Opera House has had many lives. Farmers once pulled carts through the barn-like doors to load market stalls in the basement.
Nearly every town in Southern Ontario had an opera house in the late 1800s until WWI. Excellent acoustics made Meaford Hall the town's cultural centre for more than 100 years. The opera house hosted concerts, road shows and political speeches by Canadian Prime Ministers, John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson.
Today, the balcony of the Meaford Hall theatre, on the second floor, retains its Edwardian decor. Although theater renovations added 240 new cushioned seats to the main floor, the balcony still preserves 150 of the original antique seats.
Antique theater seats
Meaford Hall Opera House purchased 500 of these theater seats for $1200 in 1908. The fold-down wooden seats have ornate cast iron legs, with wire-frame racks below, for men's hats. (Ladies wore their hats.)
Broad-bottomed patrons may want to book the modern main floor seats. The widest wooden seat is 41 cm (16 inches). The narrowest is only 37 cm (14.4 inches) across.
Meaford Hall: www.meafordhall.ca