Thespian Hall welcomes performers, festivals and spirits

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BOONVILLE - If walls could talk, the Thespian Hall would have stories of Boonville dating back 160 years.

Built in 1857, the theater became the center for arts in the town. An all-male dramatic group called "The Thespian Society" wanted a place to perform for the community.

Visitors will find three floors in the building that have been used for different purposes throughout generations. 

The executive director for the Friends of Historic Boonville, Melissa Strawhun, said, "Our house level was for the performing artist group, upstairs was used for city offices back then in 1857 and downstairs was used as the regional library."

During the peak of the Civil War, the theater was transformed into a prison and hospital.

"If people say it's creepy in here, they usually mean if they have been to the basement," Strawhun said.

Creepy is an understatement when telling stories people have come across when visiting Thespian Hall.

"Things get moved unexplainably, like when we go upstairs to the balcony, we have some what we call 'winter seats', the loose seats, so they are not the theater seating. Occasionally, when we come in and no one has been in here and then those seats are sitting on the balcony alcove out there, not where they should be," Strawhun said.

Strawhun tries to ignore the weird things she sees that are misplaced throughout the theater and simply puts them back in their spot.

In 1901, the facility was purchased and updated with the current balcony, slanted floors, dressing rooms and extended stage. 

It was used as an opera house until Fox Theater bought it and transformed it into the movie house.

Throughout the years, people tried to knock the building down, but the citizens of Boonville said no. 

"It's the gem that everyone wants to take care of," Strawhun said.,

Today, Thespian Hall is used for different festivals, state events and dance recitals.

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