the gilreath opera house

when the railroads were estabilshed in the late 1870’s linking greenville with atlanta and charlotte, the growing town became a viable stop for entertainers of all stripes: touring opera companies, comedy troupes, magicians, orchestras, shakespeare plays, minstrel shows, vaudeville performers – all used the railroad for their touring circuits. opening in 1880, the opera house was located on coffee and main St. and seated 800. the manager for the life of the opera house was belton gilreath. after two decades of success, the opera house was torn down in the late 1890’s, making way for the grand opera house just down the road.

technically, the gilreath opera house was not the first opera house in greenville. just one year prior to the gilreath’s opening, “The academy of music” had opened to great acclaim. after only a few performances, a trio of arsonists burned the building down. the gilreath opera house was the city’s speedy response, proving that greenville belonged on the map.