Jason Foltz and Rob Nolley purchased quite a few pieces off Facebook Marketplace for their renovation of Blessing’s Opera House.
“All the light fixtures we’ve salvaged or bought off garage sales, odds and ends,” Foltz said. “We tried to use old stuff and salvage stuff.”
The owners used these salvaged pieces because they wanted to preserve the old feeling of the event venue.
The building, 18 Public Square, was built in 1869 by John Blessing. Blessing opened the building as an opera house/theater, and then later it became a toy store. The toy store closed in 1986, and it sat vacant ever since.
For the last two years, Foltz and Nolley worked on restoring the building. In addition to the Opera House room, which seats about 250, it also has a smaller “Metzger Room” that seats 70 and a bar that seats about 30.
Foltz said they wanted to keep the Opera House as original as possible. They’re keeping the original floors, and pipes for gas lighting (this was the first building on the square to have gas lighting) are still visible in the walls.
In addition to the gas pipes, Foltz and Nolley have uncovered other old gems hidden in the walls.
“This had two or three layers of wallpaper, real heavy contact paper, and I don’t know how many layers of paint,” he said. “We worked on stripping wallpaper for a couple months, and this scene back here had to be the last play or opera they had, because they always painted their backdrops.”
The partial scene looks like a park with the city in the background. Foltz said his buddy took a picture of it and used a computer program to render what that backdrop would’ve looked like. This rendering is framed and placed on the stage.
“I don’t think it’s Shelbyville,” Foltz said.
On an adjacent wall, by the entrance, Blessing’s signature is still visible.
The stage also came from Facebook Marketplace – specifically from a band that was selling to purchase a bigger stage. The chandelier lights were salvaged, too, from a lodge in Minnesota.
The main entrance, tucked in the northeast corner of the public square between Pudders and The Shelby County Development Corporation, was originally a fire escape for the building’s fourth floor. Previous owners converted it to an entrance after a main escape was built in the 1980s.
Foltz and Nolley refurbished the stairs, added chandeliers and painted.
“It just kind of feels like you’re walking back in time,” Foltz said. “It’s a neat feel.”
In 1894, Silas Metzger built the half of the building where the Metzger Room and the bar are located. Both rooms are named for his memory – the bar is called “Silas’ Pub.”
Both the Metzger Room and the Opera House are adorned with large, arched windows that fill the room with light.
How they acquired the bar for Silas’ Pub is quite the story.
“This came out of a cruise ship from the 1920s,” Foltz said. “The guy said this bar was on a cruise ship when they decommissioned it. It went into a bar somewhere on the East Coast, and then a guy in Anderson bought it when [the East Coast bar] closed down, so this is it’s fourth home it’s been in.”
The bar set, which includes the countertop and the back bar behind it, still has the original cash register and glass rods. Foltz said they rewired the lighting for LED lights.
Getting it into the building was another story all together.
“I have an old firetruck, a 1969 historical truck at my farm,” Foltz said. “We took [the bar] apart, took that window out of the building, and shoved all of this through that window. It wouldn’t fit in the elevator or up the stairway.”
The freight elevator for the building was built in the early 1900s. And it still works.
The doors entering the bar are made of mostly glass and also came from Facebook Marketplace. Foltz said they purchased them from somebody who intended to use them for a man cave, but didn’t because their wife decided she didn’t like them.
Initially, the Foltz-Nolley duo wanted to turn the building into a wedding venue, where the ceremony would be held in the Opera House and the Metzger Room would be the bridal suite, Foltz said. Silas’ Pub would act as the bachelor’s suite. There is another room in the building Foltz said they’re considering turning into a bachelor’s suite.
There is also a smaller room set up as a prep kitchen for caterers, as the business does not intend to provide in house food.
The venue is open for scheduling events in the near future. Foltz said they’re waiting on their event permit from the state, which they should receive after they install one last handrail on the main entrance staircase.