An opera house in Dunfermline? Imagine that!

There is a little piece of Dunfermline far, far away in the town of Sarasota, Florida. And the story starts with a grand Opera House that was rarely an opera house until it had travelled 4,256 miles west over the Atlantic! 

In 1900, entrepreneurial promoter and local architect Peter Roy Jackson drew up plans for a lavish theatre for the town. It opened on 11 September 1903 and was called Dunfermline Opera House and Hippodrome.

It was located on Reform Street, about 20 metres to the left of Coadys Bar, as you look east from Fire Station Creative. 

Opera was rarely performed there, however variety shows proved popular. The 1930’s saw a rise in popularity of ‘movie’ films so a screen and projector were added. However, two World Wars had a huge impact on dwindling audiences and, finally, the rise of households owning their own televisions resulted in the Opera House’s closure in 1955.

Architect's drawing of Opera House Reform Street elevation
Elevation of Opera House from Reform Street. Fife Cultural Trust (Dunfermline Local Studies) on behalf of Fife Council

When a new road layout was approved in 1982 to create the Kingsgate Shopping Centre, Reform Street and the empty Opera House were removed from the map. 

It was recommended to preserve the craftsmanship of the interior from a remodelling which happened in 1920. They had reopened as a variety theatre and the plasterwork was in Louis XV style. It was carefully packed away like a giant jigsaw puzzle. 

Four years later the Asolo Repertory Theater of Sarasota, Florida, was looking for a pre-made opera theatre. They bought the pieces and the Dunfermline Opera House was resurrected in Sarasota as the Mertz Theatre which hosts opera and other musical work, finally! You can see how it looks in the link below.


Hear more about the free tours we have available at Dunfermline.Tours

Mertz Theatre