Avon Opera Block

Image from Daniel A. Fink (1938-1995) Collection, Livingston County Historian's Office
Photo by Dan Fink, 1979

The top floor of the Avon Opera Block was a central gathering place for the community, where citizens of all ranks would congregate to attend theatrical performances, lectures, political meetings, dances, and school graduations. For over a half-century, Hall’s Opera Block served as the focal point of Avon’s recreational and social activities. Among the most famous of the lecturers were Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth. (Excerpted from the National Register Nomination, 2006.)


The Opera Block was constructed in 1876 and is now owned by the Town of Avon. The building has been renovated, with the exception of the top floor, for government offices and the historical society museum. Plans are in the works to eventually restore the auditorium for community use.


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Elizabeth Cady Stanton – The famous suffragist spoke at many locations around Livingston County in the late 19th and early 20th century, including the Avon Opera Block in 1877.


For Stanton’s upcoming lecture, the Livingston Republican newspaper ran a small notice announcing “Avon is to have first class lecture courses to be opened by Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton.” And a preview blurb in the Avon publication, the Livingston County Herald, gave a positive review of Stanton’s recent lecture in Bath, Steuben County, stating that she drew a large and appreciative audience. To ensure an equally large audience for her visit to Avon, a huge advertisement in bold print in the same paper proclaimed, "ELIZABETH CADY STANTON! OPERA HALL, SATURDAY EVENING DEC. 8, 1877."


The follow-up notice the week after the event gave no details of the size of the crowd or a critique of the program, but did offer the following quip: “Since Mrs. Stanton’s lecture the girls have lengthened their stays a quarter of an inch and the boys have lengthened theirs an hour and a half.” Stanton had also appeared in Lima the night before coming to Avon, but unfortunately there was no follow-up in the local news.


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Sojourner Truth – the famous, formerly enslaved woman frequented the lecture circuit in New York State and visited Livingston County, appearing in Avon and Livonia in August of 1878, and Mt. Morris in 1879.


"That rare historical character, Sojourner Truth, is visiting the family of Mr. Nelson Powell in this village. She is the oldest public speaker in the world, being upwards of one hundred years of age, and still retains her faculties unimpaired. She speaks in the Opera Hall Thursday evening." – Livingston County Herald, August 1, 1878, p.3.