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The curtain came down on the stage of the historic Howell Opera House in the 1930s, bringing to an end nearly 60 years of entertainment and amusement that had Howell pegged as the fun capital of Livingston County. From opening day Dec. 30, 1881 until the 1930s, people would come for miles around to sit in the theater (above what is now Gill-Roys Hardware) to see jugglers and acrobats, hear speeches from the likes of presidential candidate William Jennings Bryant and industrialist Henry Ford, and see productions of Gilbert and Sullivans "Makado" and Shakespeares "Hamlet".
The 700 seat theater was a central part of Livingston County's life, and did double duty as a civic auditorium for events like high school graduations. Justice was also administered when in 1889 the Opera House served as a temporary home for the Livingston County Circuit Court. In 1991, historic theater expert Edward Francis said that the Opera House should be placed on an "endangered species" list because most other theaters of its era have burned down. At the time Francis estimated its restoration and renovation at about $5 Million, the cost to build the theater was only $11,000 in 1880. (Excerpt from Livingston County Press article.)