Feature of the Month:
The Summit Opera House
Humankind has hummed, strummed, and drummed since the beginning of time. The early pioneers in the Summit area were no exception, and so they formed a social group and built themselves an event center.
The Patchen Social Club was incorporated in 1885 by Charles Aiken and Volney Averill. Martin Schulthies, Volney’s father-in-law, donated land for the new community center (near the intersection of Summit Road and Old Santa Cruz Highway in today’s world). The completed hall was forty by seventy-five feet in size and was named the Summit Opera House.
The Summit Opera House featured plays, operas, musicals, and orchestras, amongst other entertainment. Martin directed one local orchestra that played there often. Other activities included weddings, shivarees, and church events. The most common use of the hall, however, was for dances.
Fred and Tillie Brohaska, both music teachers, were popular performers along with William Crichten on violin and William Gebhardt on piano. Reports noted that attendees came by horse and buggy from Wright’s, Skyland, Laurel, Burrell, Glenwood, Los Gatos, and even San Jose, to enjoy the music.
It seems that mountain folks loved these dances so much they typically lasted until the wee hours of the morning. Singles never stopped dancing, and parents paused only long enough to put their children to bed in the hall’s dressing room. The twirling and swaying went on until dawn.
One of the largest dances at the Summit Opera House took place just a month after the 1906 earthquake. It seems the community rallied together in support of life, love, and each other. There is a lot of kinship in the mountains, and perhaps, our 2022 neighborhood would do exactly the same thing.
From: The Howling Wilderness, Stephen Payne, 1978, pp. 86-87.
The ball or an elegant evening by Victor Gabriel Gilbert (1890)
The Squires Ball, artist unknown (1886)