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The Smith Blog

SMITH HISTORY BLOG: Smith Opera House Chronicles

by Gretty Hollister

October 1994 marked the centennial anniversary of the Smith Opera House. As part of the celebration, Charles McNally, an English professor from Hobart and William Smith colleges, wrote a book that was then self-published by the Finger Lakes Regional Arts Council. The book was a celebration of the history and future of the Smith. However, in an effort to make something more accessible to elementary school students, fifth grade students in Rebecca K. Addona’s Project Promise class, wrote a publication with much of the same information as McNally’s book, but targeted towards kids.

The masthead for Smith Opera House Chronicles, a publication created by students in Rebecca K. Addona’s Project Promise class in 1994.

The masthead for Smith Opera House Chronicles, a publication created by students in Rebecca K. Addona’s Project Promise class in 1994.

The students looked through archives at the Finger Lakes Times, the Geneva Historical Society, and the Smith Opera House. Similar to what the researchers for these blog posts did, they hunted for newspaper articles and other primary sources. They consulted the Historic Structure Report as compiled by Crawford and Sterns, as well. Articles in their newsprint include “William Smith,” “Atmospheric Theatres,” and even comics! The back page contains acknowledgements to the local businesses that helped them out, as well as ghost stories from the Smith—because what 100-year-old building doesn’t have a few ghost stories? Besides, it makes sense that those stories made it into the junior publication, I think.

But it wasn’t just their own publication the junior journalists worked on. In McNally’s book, each one of the photos has a caption, explaining what is pictured and its historical significance. While McNally’s information is well-researched and eloquent, the pictures really make the book ‘pop’. The captions help to place the photos in the scheme of the book and also bring them to life.

One of the most exciting things about this project, looking back, was the interest that was shown to a 100-year-old building by young researchers, all with the intent to make sure that other students could learn about its history in a fun, creative way. 25 years later, we commend you!

The student creators of Smith Opera House Chronicles, a publication created by students in Rebecca K. Addona’s Project Promise class in 1994.

The student creators of Smith Opera House Chronicles, a publication created by students in Rebecca K. Addona’s Project Promise class in 1994.

Works Cited

Agonito, Chuck. “Good Times: Not Smarter Than a…” Finger Lakes Times, 29 Aug. 2013. https://www.fltimes.com/arts_and_entertainment/good-times-not-smarter-than-a/article_1fd4e630-10be-11e3-abca-0019bb2963f4.htmlAccessed 5 July 2019.