In 1979, Beth Klosterman of David City, purchased and restored the Thorpe Opera House with the help of many local volunteers. When the Thorpe Opera House re-opened its doors in 1981, the audience of over 250 was delighted with the renovated interior and its historic charm. The Butler County Arts Council and the Union Pacific Railroad Foundation co-sponsored the opening-night performance by Evelyn Petros, a mezzosoprano from the New York Metropolitan Opera. Another chapter in the life of the Thorpe Opera House had begun.
Since the re-opening of the Thorpe, people of the community have worked together to bring a variety of events to the Thorpe stage. Arts Council performances, school musicals, art shows, summer-theater, wedding receptions, showers, dance lessons and proms are among the many activities held at the Thorpe Opera House. With its wonderful acoustics and historic charm, it is a great venue for everything from Opera to Hoe-Downs. Nebraska Education Television has filmed performances from the Thorpe and several radio stations have used the facility to broadcast live entertainment.
For all its charm, improvements must be made to insure the continued use of this historic facility. Without handicap accessibility, improvements to the heating and cooling systems and restoration work to the buildings exterior, the fate of this structure is in jeopardy. In 2000, Beth Klosterman donated the building to The Thorpe, Inc. and enlisted a Board of Directors to help guide the next phase of the Thorpe project.
In 2000 Bruce McCauley, a graduate student in the University of Nebraska College of Arcitecture, wrote his Master’s Thesis on the Historic Renovation of the Thorpe Opera House building. He is now a licensed architect working with the Rhen Architectural firm of New York state and is actively working on the plans for the renewal of The Thorpe Building. Bruce has previously worked on the restoration of an opera house in New York state and is involved in the restoration of many of the historic buildings on the Strategic Air Command base in Bellevue, NE.
The renovated Thorpe building will serve as a historical community center, performing and visual arts center, as well as a cornerstone for economic-development improvements planned for downtown David City. Since the Chamber of Commerce office, Butler County Economic Development office, meeting and restaurant spaces located within the Thorpe building will be open-to-the-public during business hours, there will be increased public access to historical exhibits and displays. The auditorium will receive a much-needed face-lift but retain its unique ambiance. Improved lighting and sound equipment, new dressing rooms and increased costume and set storage will add to the enjoyment of performers and audiences alike.