“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Clayton in Jefferson County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Clayton Opera House

A Thousand Islands Cultural Center

— Cultural Heritage —

Clayton Opera House Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr., October 6, 2018
1. Clayton Opera House Marker

"...for use in perpetuity as a Community and Performing Arts Center"
Town of Clayton, April 9, 2000

Performing in Clayton
For over 100 years the Opera House has set the stage for performances of all kinds. Broadway actress May Irwin performed here, Vaudeville shows played, and many local theatrical groups appeared. Orchestras and musical groups delighted audiences and the house served residents of the Thousand Islands as a venue for a wide array of community functions.

In 1905 May Irwin, one of the most popular names in Vaudeville, and her troupe from New York City presented the play Mrs. Black is Back and filled the Opera House with almost 1,000 people.

For thirty-eight years the TI Museum was headquartered in the Opera House. Under their charter, they were able to nurture the Thousand Islands Craft School and the Antique Boat Auxiliary, the precursors for Clayton's Handweaving Museum and Arts Center and the Antique Boat Museum. As these ambassadors for Clayton's rich history grew, they each moved from the Opera House to their current facilities.


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Clayton Band gave concerts, the Darou Minstrels performed, and the band Kings and Queens of Rhythm played. Music still plays today as many professional and local groups take the stage.

Community Events
Originally built to serve as the Town Hall, the Opera House has also been used for numerous community events. The movable seating on the orchestra level allowed the main floor to be cleared for dances and celebrations, basketball games and a variety of trade shows.

Clock Tower and Weathervane
Originally, the building was crowned with a clock tower with a bell that rang on the hour. In the 1920s Carl Frink fashioned a brass muskellunge weathervane for the top of the tower. During World War II, the clock was removed so the tower could be used as an observation tower. A lightning strike in 1967 caused such damage to the tower that it had to be removed. The bell is still on display in the lower level and the weathervane was restored and placed in its current location atop the Opera House.

Opera House Timeline

2007 • Major restoration and renovation.

2004 • Thousand Islands Performing Arts Fund launches Centennial Campaign to Renovate the Clayton Opera House.

2003 • Town dedicates building for use in perpetuity as a performing arts center.

2002 • T.I. Museum moves to new location on James Street and the T.I. Performing

Clayton Opera House and Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr., October 6, 2018
2. Clayton Opera House and Marker
Marker visible behind the truck's cargo bed
Arts Fund brings live performances back to the Opera House.

1990s • Summer Theater Committee created to bring theatre to the Opera House.

1967 • Lightning strikes tower and it is removed.

1964 • T.I. Museum opens in the Opera House.

1950 • The Thousand Islands Playhouse Theater Company begins summer plays.

1940s • Tower is used to watch for enemy aircraft.

1920 • Muskellunge weathervane placed atop tower.

1905 • May Irwin performance fills the house.

1904 • Construction completed.

1903 • Cornerstone laid.
Erected by Great Lakes Seaway Trail.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Notable Buildings. In addition, it is included in the Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway series list. A significant historical date for this entry is April 9, 2000.
Location. Marker has been reported missing. It was located near 44° 14.56′ N, 76° 5.22′ W. Marker was in Clayton, New York, in Jefferson County. Marker was at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Merrick Street, on the right when traveling east on Riverside Drive. Touch for map. Marker was at or near this postal address: 403 Riverside Drive, Clayton NY 13624, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this location. Eagle Wing Group (within shouting distance of this marker); The Muskie (within shouting distance

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of this marker); War Memorial (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); U.S.S. Maine Memorial (about 300 feet away); Johnson House (about 400 feet away); Korean War • Honor Roll • Vietnam War (about 500 feet away); World War I • Honor Roll • World War II (about 500 feet away); Penet Square (approx. 0.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Clayton.
More about this marker. I believe the marker was removed for construction
Credits. This page was last revised on June 29, 2021. It was originally submitted on November 16, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 179 times since then and 30 times this year. Last updated on June 29, 2021, by Robert Rusaw of Massena, New York. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on November 16, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. • Michael Herrick was the editor who published this page.

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May. 30, 2023