One of the most architecturally striking theatres of its size in the Southeast, The Grand Opera House was built in 1883-84. It has undergone many renovations over the years, the last of which occurred in 2005 with funding through the U.S. National Parks Service’s Save America’s Treasures Grant Program.
Over its history, The Grand presented minstrels, vaudeville, burlesque, musical comedy and drama. In 1908, a production of Ben Hur was presented with live horses and chariots on a treadmill installed in the stage. Ten years later, Charlie Chaplin conducted the John Phillip Sousa band to raise money for the war effort. A memorial service for President McKinley was held on the stage. Other famous performers at The Grand included Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, Madame Sarah Bernhardt, Houdini, Pavlova, Will Rogers, and George Burns and Gracie Allen.
In 1967, a group of citizens formed the Macon Arts Council to raise money to restore and operate The Grand. A sold-out gala reopening took place on April 6, 1970, with Robert Shaw conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and The Grand was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Mercer University in 1995 signed a lease with Bibb County for the management and administration of The Grand Opera House. Every season, The Grand, which also is the performance home of the Macon Symphony Orchestra, brings the very best in live, professional performing arts and entertainment to its stage through its highly popular Butler Lexus Broadway Series of nationally touring productions from New York and around the world.