The History

Interior of Opera House lobby with grand staircase

Our Mission

Historic Homestake Opera House Society will utilize and sustain the Homestake Opera House facilities for the enrichment of our citizens and community by providing art, culture, and educational opportunities for generations to come.

Built in 1914 by Phoebe Hearst and her Homestake Gold Mining Company, this historic performing arts venue and recreation center boasted an exquisite theater with 1,000 seats, and a library, a bowling alley, a billiards hall, a social hall, and a heated indoor swimming pool. From its construction in 1914 until a catastrophic fire in 1984, the Opera House was the center of community life and lifelong education in Lead, South Dakota. The Society is dedicated to its restoration, use, and preservation for future generations, in the belief that it is the cornerstone for the preservation, renewal, and development of our community.

Vision & Values

Nurturing art, culture, and educational experiences in the presence of this historical grandeur.

With Historic Homestake Opera House Society, our partners, and our customers, we value:

  • Rehabilitating the Opera House to its original design; adapt according to its current nature and purpose, adhering to the Secretary of the Interior Standards for Historic Preservation.
  • Acting as a model for historic preservation and reuse.
  • Keeping expenditures local whenever possible.
  • Encouraging community 
    involvement in project 
    development and the rehabilitation.
  • Honoring memory and vision equally. Sharing the glory; there will be plenty.
People dancing on stage at Festival of Trees
"From the start is has been the theater's business to entertain people. It needs no other passport than fun."
Bertolt Brecht
Exterior of Opera House in early 1900's


Built 1914, the Homestake Opera House was built as a gift to the community. Phoebe Apperson Hearst, widow of George Hearst, believed the people of Lead deserved an opportunity for exposure to the arts and culture. Through this dream, the Homestake Opera House was built. However, Thomas J. Grier, superintendent of the mine at the time, felt that instead it should be a true community center for the miners. So, in addition to the theater that sat 1,000, a billiards hall, library, bowling alley and heated indoor swimming pool were added to the building.

Man looks at Opera House damage after fire


The residents enjoyed the amenities of the Homestake Opera House for many years. They even got to watch movies at the theater! Until 1984, when a devastating fire broke out. The fire burnt most of the theater, causing immense damage including the roof collapsing and the grand chandelier falling to the swimming pool below the theatre floor. Luckily, the fire was mostly contained to the theatre and theatre lobby area, resulting in minimal damage to the rest of the building that housed the bowling alley, library and billiards hall.

Theatre under construction for restoration


After sitting empty for 11 years, the building was purchased from the City of Lead by Jerry Aberle, former Homestake engineer, and planning for restoration and structural improvements began. A nonprofit organization was formed in 1998 and $3 million was raised. Reconstruction of the stage and theater floors, restoration of the foyers, lobby, and plasterwork was expertly completed by former Homestake Gold Mine employees. Also added was an elevator, restrooms; and a floor was installed over the pool area that created offices and a conference center.

Theatre lobby during construction


New windows, fire safe doors, updated sound system, and heated floors were installed in the theater and the women’s lounge completed. In 2013, the golden murals were restored near the foyer ceiling and  in 2014 the original water fountain was returned, and cloakroom, men’s lounge/smoking room were restored. On the 100th Anniversary of the building, the cherub sculptures were returned to their location near the stage. In 2015, the wood floors in the original library space were restored to make way for an Interpretive Center that opened in 2016.

Theatre partially restored


Restoration of the interior lower walls of the theater were completed in 2018; original bronze and stained glass light fixtures were restored and replicated. The walls and the light fixtures were severely damaged in the fire.

Work slowly progresses forward with restoration of the theatre with the hopes to fully restore the building to its original grandeur.

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