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OAKLEY — Oakley Valley Arts Council has been awarded a $5,000 matching grant from Idaho Heritage Trust for Howells Opera House new roof.

Oakley’s Opera House started with a dream by Judge B. P. Howells. Judge Howells was mainly a self-educated man who came to the Oakley Valley with some of the first settlers in 1879.

Judge Howells and his family, along with the rest of the community, looked forward to having entertainment, but the actors did not have a proper place to perform.

In 1904, Judge Howells contracted two masons, George Croft and William Dummer, and two carpenters, Cyrus Cavanass and Elmer Mecham, to build his theater. The theater was finally finished in 1907 at the cost of $22,000. Judge Howells owned one of the most luxurious theaters between Salt Lake and Boise.

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In the late 1920s the Howells family sold the Opera House to the LDS Church. It became known as the Cassia Stake Playhouse (later the Oakley Playhouse). Rising costs and general deterioration forced the church to consider demolishing the structure in the 1970s. Oakley residents had seen at least one of their cherished old buildings destroyed, and they didn’t want that to happen to this historic public building. A group of residents formed the Oakley Valley Arts Theater, and two years later they were able to purchase the playhouse from the LDS Church and begin its restoration. Shortly thereafter, they reorganized as Oakley Valley Arts Council and became a non-profit 501c organization that has continually promoted the arts as they strive to preserve this historic Opera House.

Founded in 1989, the Idaho Heritage Trust began as a lasting legacy of the Centennial Celebration of 1990. They have funded more than 400 projects totaling over $3 million in grants and technical architectural, engineering and conservation advice and they have provided grants and technical assistance in every county in Idaho. The Idaho Heritage Trust has awarded more than 66 percent of grants to communities of 5,000 or less.

For more information on Howells Opera House, visit www.oakleyvalleyarts.org or visit Facebook under Oakley Valley Arts.

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