On Saturday, December 12, 2015, the Livingston Arts Council celebrated the final payment of the Opera House mortgage with a ‘Burn the Mortgage’ party attended by Livingston Arts Council Board members ( past and present) and various supporters.
Supporters of the Howell Opera House looked on as the mortgage papers (an enlarged copy of the original) went up in flames in front of the iconic building. With the mortgage paid off 15 years early, rehabilitation of the 1881 historic site is top priority for board members of the Livingston Arts Council, which now officially owns the building free and clear.
A fundraising campaign in 2011 and 2012 raised $658,000 in just four months, leaving about $68,000 which was paid off within the last three years. The First National Bank of Howell helped pay off the remaining balance with matching funds.
Although the first floor of the Opera House is completely renovated and operational, the upper stories need major rehabilitation work that would likely cost millions of dollars. Historically, the actual Opera House 1881 theater, which includes a stage and gallery, was upstairs and businesses occupied the first floor. Since purchasing the Opera House in 2000 and an adjacent commercial building then known as the Garland Building in 2001, major repairs included the first floor renovation in 2007, a new roofs in 2009, and 22 window and sash refurbishments in the theater last year.
The first floor is used by the LAC for Acoustic Cafe, Got Art, Pop Up Bistro, Open Studio, and two dance programs. The building is also available to rent for private and public events such as wedding receptions, meetings, luncheons, art exhibits, and other community venues.
In 2006, the LAC will begin to plan rehabilitation work on the upper floors and get architectural drawings made up. Major fundraising campaigns will follow!