Frank William Hart opened what he called an opera house in 1887, but it hardly deserved the name. Hart's Opera House had started life as a roller skating rink in Port Moody but it was later dismantled and rebuilt on wooden piles on Carrall Street in 1886. It continued as a skating rink until December 1887, when it re-opened as a theatre and assembly hall. The interior of Hart's Opera House was lined with white cheesecloth, and there were enough benches to seat about 800 patrons. The Salvation Army held its meetings there, as did the Amateur Dramatic Club. Hart's closed the year that the Imperial Opera House opened.
The Imperial was also stretching the truth by calling itself an Opera House: it was actually more like an assembly hall. Local architect A.E. Crickmay and financier Hugh Robson built the Imperial in 1889 on Pender Street at Abbott. The Imperial had separate waiting rooms for men and women, a bar and two ticket offices; it could hold about 600 patrons. Vancouver's first Shakespearean production, Richard III, was performed at the Imperial in December 1889. (next page)
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