The main building of the Harlan County Museum, the opera house, was built by a group of citizens of Orleans referred to as the Courthouse Committee. The building was built at a cost of $2,000. The two-story structure with four rooms on the lower floor and a full upper floor used to be used as a court room or auditorium.
The Opera House was used as a school house in 1883. In 1886 it was used for classes by Beach’s Business College. Sometime between 1886 and 1902 the city acquired the building. From then on, the building was referred to as the Opera House.
Many plays were held at the Opera House and also a number of talented speakers. Among these were Carrie Nation on March 30, 1906, George Norris in 1908 and William Jennings Bryan in 1913.
In 1917 the Opera House was moved from its location in the city park to its present location.
High school basketball was played in it from 1919-1928. In 1946, the Opera House was converted to a movie theater and operated successfully until TV became mainstream in American life.