The Newberry Opera House has been the heart of Newberry County since its dedication in 1882. Designed by G. L. Norman and built at a cost of $30,000, the building is an example of Victorian civic eclectic architecture. The French Gothic clock tower dominates the city’s skyline.
It was designed as a place of entertainment for the local citizenry and as a seat of government for the city and constructed with brick from three local brickyards. The granite came from a quarry approximately two miles outside of the city limits. The talents of local craftsmen in woodworking and masonry were used throughout the construction.
The original design called for the first floor to house the fire engine room, council chambers, a clerk’s office, a police officer, and three jail cells. The second floor was a hall 53 by 52 feet with a stage 29 by 52 feet. In connection with the hall were a ticket office, a “green room”, a cloakroom, and three dressing rooms.
The building has a tower 130 feet high topped with a garfish weathervane, and the tower houses an E. Howard Tower town clock, 90 feet from the ground. A gas lighting system was installed with a reflector, or “sun burner”, for added brilliance. Drop curtains and seven scenes for the stage were provided. One scene, a landscape, survived to the late 20th century.