In 1895, Lodge No. 154 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks laid the cornerstone of Portsmouth’s Grand Opera House in the name of “Charity, Justice, and Brotherly Love.” Before the rise of the moving picture show and a devastating fire in September 1914, the Opera House had been the center of Portsmouth’s thriving art, music, and theatre scene.
Following the fire in 1914, the structure was gutted, losing forever its original and magnificent top floor. With its interiors rebuilt, it was reborn as Store No. 150 of the S. S. Kresge Co. This popular downtown “Five and Dime,” the equivalent of today’s “dollar store,” evolved into K-Mart by the late 1970s. With the closure of the steel mill in 1980, Portsmouth’s K-mart would eventually relocate to the Village of New Boston, onto lands once used by the factory. K-Mart’s exit would make way for today’s Diamond Gem Lending Company.
The artistic and theatrical successors to the Grand Opera House today are to be found at Portsmouth’s Little Theatre, the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts at Shawnee State University, and, here, at the Southern Ohio Museum and Cultural Center. The city’s theatrical traditions continue to thrive and are especially evident in the work of the Portsmouth Area Children’s Theatre, which is now located in the new Portsmouth STEM Academy Building on Third Street.