Tuesday, July 7, 1998

Birch Opera House

The 1200-seat Birch Opera House was opened in 1877 by carriage mogul and arts patron James Birch, next to the mansion occupied by the Birch family. Over the next five decades, it hosted such performers as Billie Burke, Buffalo Bill Cody and John L. Sullivan, and indoor productions of Ben Hur, complete with horses.

After the advent of the automobile destroyed the market for Birch's carriages and rickshaws, his factory went out of business, and the Opera House closed in 1927.

Today, Burlington's Post Office stands on the site of the former Opera House. The Birch name is still seen by passers-by every day, on the base of a cast-iron statue of Mercury. An English copy of a sixteenth-century work by Flemish sculptor Jean Boulogne, the statue was erected in 1881 as the centerpiece of the Opera House, and now stands in front of the Post Office.

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