myMarvin Architect's Challenge: Smyrna Opera House
By Berit Griffin
January 6, 2011
The Smyrna Opera House in Smyrna, Delaware, was constructed in 1867 and expanded in 1878. Fire destroyed the third floor and bell tower in 1948. The second floor originally housed a theater and other public spaces, but it stood vacant for many years.
After determining feasibility, reconstruction and adaptive use of the old building plus needed support facilities — stairs, elevator, mechanical equipment, toilets, kitchen — were phased with fund-raising efforts. To meet code standards — and to re-create a balcony in the theater which provided a column free floor — extensive structural improvements were required.
Though no original documentation was available, spaces were designed to be consistent with that period while still accommodating contemporary needs. Analysis indicated that window replacement was a better choice than repair, based on both initial cost and long term performance. Marvin fabricated the windows to match the original. The re-creation of the third floor and its windows was based on a few old photographs.