"The Opera House"
Construction of the Assion-Ruffing City Hall building began in 1864 and was completed in 1865. The first event was a ball held for the returning soldiers from the Civil War in the grand hall on the third floor. A few weeks later another ball took place to celebrate the 4th of July. Over the years, other balls, lectures, dinners, concerts, and other forms of entertainments took place.
In 1881, John Lathrope partnered with John Ruffing to remodel the third floor City Hall into a grand opera house. The Lathrope & Ruffing Delphi Opera House made its debut in 1882 to a crowd of nearly 500 people. The show featured the Litta Grand Opera Company with the famous soprano Marie Litta as prima donna.
Rooms were rented by Lathrope in the adjacent Greenup building (later the called the Crosby Hotel) and was used as dressing rooms for the performers. Signs of the opening can still be seen on the backstage wall. Signatures from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s can be found on the wall and the dressing rooms.
The famous “Hoosier Poet”, James Whitcomb Riley gave at least six performances in the Opera House, the first in 1882. He wrote several poems about the area that includes “On the Banks O’ Deer Crick”, “From Delphi to Camden”, and “Curly Locks” about a woman friend of his from the Delphi. Nearby Riley Park was named in his honor.
Following a fire at the Dreyfus Theater in Lafayette, Indiana in 1914, the fire marshal closed the upper story due to its limited outlet space. At that point, the Opera House became a storage space for the first-floor retail shops.
The Delphi Preservation Society (DPS) completed the purchase of the complete building in 2007 with the intent to restore the Opera House to its former glory.