ISLAND FALLS, Maine — The 128-year-old Island Falls Opera House is closed until it satisfies the state fire marshal’s safety requirements.
An architect must draw plans of the building to show its entrances and exits.
Chris Hartin, the new owner of the opera house, said a member of the town’s planning board contacted the fire marshal’s office to close down the building, which had begun playing old films and music concerts like it did a century ago.
“[The fire marshal] advised us not to do anything until plans and inspection, repairs [are done] as needed per code,” Hartin said. “It looks like a lot of roadblocks to be able to open back up.”
Shannon Moss, a spokesperson for the fire marshal’s office, said that it was standard procedure for any change of use, in this case going from a mercantile establishment to an assembly. She also said the opera house would be able to reopen if the recommendations were met.
“The owner has been in touch with the [fire marshal’s office] to get clearance before he opens,” Moss said. “He was advised of the construction application process and they will work with him and inspector Scott Cyr to get him to the appropriate safety levels needed. He was not told by the [fire marshal’s office] to shut down.”
The opera house was built in 1894 in the heyday of tanneries and the National Starch and Chemical Company factory. It became an entertainment hub for the town of Island Falls. The opera house shut down in the 1960s, mirroring the economic decline of the town.
Hartin acquired the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, last winter in an attempt to restore local businesses.
Hartin said he would try to follow the fire marshal’s recommendations to reopen, but said being able to find an architect in rural Island Falls would be a difficult task.
“[It’s] just a hard area to make contacts,” Hartin said.
Town Manager Jutta Beyer said Thursday she did not know if it was a planning board member who had informed the fire marshal, but the board will discuss the opera house at its next meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
Efforts to reach planning board members were unsuccessful.
In the meantime, the opera house’s Facebook page has a picture posted of a sign saying: “Notice: Permanently Closed.” The bed and breakfast that runs out of the same building remains open.