A History of the Historic Fischer Theatre

The Fischer Theatre was originally built in 1884 as The Grand Opera House. The Grand Opening feature, held on November 5, 1884 was the Emma Abbott Grand English Opera Company presenting “King for a Day,” beginning the theater’s rich performing arts history. Live theatrical and musical performances were the primary focus through the Vaudeville era. However, The first movie held at the theatre was shown as early as 1889 by the International Cinegraph Company of New York. It was the Fitzsimmons-Jeffries fight held earlier in the year on June 9 at Coney Island. Later, in 1929, “state of the art” motion picture equipment was added, solidifying the theater’s role in the coming decades as a movie theater as well.

In 1912 ownership of the Grand Opera House transitioned to Mr. Louis F. Fischer. After much renovation and investment, the grand opening of the “new” Fischer Theatre took place in March of 1913, and we have known the Lady by that name ever since. Following a storied history, and through almost 100 years of operation in the community, the doors of the theater were eventually closed in 1981. This brought us to what was until very recently feared to be the last chapter in the theater’s story.

But together and since 1983, our community and a cast of hundreds if not thousands of volunteers and donors carried on fundraising efforts to restore the theater and return it back to its hopeful place as a performing arts center in the heart of our community. From the efforts of Gene Hackman, Jerry Van Dyke, Dick Van Dyke, Donold O’Connor and Bobby Short raising funds together on stage to friends and neighbors bagging groceries for donations, the decades still rolled by without much progress. That is until the generosity of a beloved local philanthropist, Mr. Julius Hegeler II, made our community’s dream a reality. With Mr. Hegeler’s vision and determination, and the skilled craftsmen who took up the project, the Fischer Theatre is open once again to our community.

The Lady waits no longer.

Vermilion Heritage Foundation

Board of Directors

Sue Beck

Marilyn Blanton

Pat Bowers

Sean Deneau

Kayla Dillman

Jennifer Dixson

Don Marrow

Heather Miyagi

Carol Nichols

Steve Nichols

Ruey Sandusky

Miranda Shake

Keith Souza

Jim Wood

Keith Souza – President

Miranda Shake – Vice President

Ruey Sandusky – Secretary

The Vermilion Heritage Foundation is the 501(c)3 charitable organization that owns and operates the Fischer Theatre, and has overseen the restoration of this landmark to its current state. Through the continued development and active use of the historic theatre, the foundation’s mission is to provide, through the Fischer Theatre, a premier multi-purpose venue for the performing and visual arts, along with a versatile event space in which businesses and groups may work, celebrate and entertain, and an important resource for tourism and in the cultural, educational and economic development of the Danville area.