Tabor Opera House
Leadville’s historic Tabor Opera House was once billed as the finest theatre between St. Louis and San Francisco. Silver baron Horace Tabor, who made his fortune in Leadville, built this opulent building in 1879 in a mere 100 days. It is now undergoing its first major rehabilitation since 1879.
Join us for tours and performances!
Make your plans now to tour the Tabor Opera House next season! We reopen for the summer season in May 2022.
See the stage where John Philip Sousa, Oscar Wilde, and Anna Held performed. Tour the Tabor museum, a collection of memorabilia. Local youth and experienced local history buffs will keep you spellbound.
The Tabor Opera House offers concerts, plays, comedies, and more most summers. Because of the ongoing rehabilitation, performances will not be held in 2021. Please check back for news of the 2022 season.
History and Revitalization
The Tabor Opera House was built in 1879 by silver mining magnate Horace Austin Warner (HAW) Tabor. In its heyday, the Tabor hosted conductor John Philip Sousa, British wit Oscar Wilde, actress Sarah Bernhardt, performer Anna Held, and more celebrities. Even a circus with tigers has paraded across the stage.
Around the turn of the century, 150 opera houses graced the state. Today, only eight stand as a proud monument to Colorado history. The City of Leadville purchased the Tabor Opera House in 2016. Now, the city and the Tabor Opera House Preservation Foundation are working to revitalize this magnificent brick theater. The future Tabor will be a cultural hub and economic driver for Leadville.
How the Tabor Opera House was Built
The Tabor Opera House was built in 1879 by Horace Austin Warner (HAW) Tabor, one of Colorado’s most well known mining magnates. It was one of the most costly and most substantially built structures in Colorado history. The construction materials were not available in Leadville, so HAW Tabor ordered that they be brought up by wagons… a tedious task. Nevertheless, the Tabor was completed in only 100 days from the date of ground-breaking, which was a record time.
The massive three-story opera house was constructed of stone, brick, and iron, and trimmed with Portland cement. Its solid brick walls stand 16 inches thick. The color scheme used was red, gold, white, and sky blue, lit by 72 jets of brightly burning gas lights. This substantial construction has weathered the test of time.
Evelyn Livingston Furman
Evelyn Livingston Furman, who sold Maytag wringer washers, bought the Tabor Opera House from the Elks in 1954 and personally ran it until she was 84 years old. Along the way, Evelyn wrote three books that tell the story of the Opera House, Augusta Tabor, and Silver Dollar Tabor. Eventually, she turned the controls to her daughter Sharon Furman Bland and her husband Bill.
Tabor to Become a Cultural Hub
In November 2016, the City of Leadville purchased the Tabor Opera House. Now, the city and the Tabor Opera House Preservation Foundation are revitalizing this grand old building to become a center for diverse arts and culture in the heart of Leadville.
The first major rehabilitation of the Tabor since 1879 started in the spring of 2020. The only other building repair on this scale was a remodel led by the Elks in 1902. Phase I of construction will fix the most fragile west and south walls. Completion is expected in 2021.
The $1.5 million cost was funded by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) ($830,000), National Park Service ($500,000), and the City of Leadville ($20,000). In addition, Tabor fans in Colorado and nationwide won $150,000 for the project in the Leadville Main Street Program’s Partners in Preservation campaign in 2018. Supporters voted online over six weeks and won the Tabor first place in a national contest.
The Tabor has been named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and an Endangered Place by Colorado Preservation, Inc. Learn how to contribute to this important project!