History of the Victory Theatre

The Victory Theatre has been the center of the performing arts in Dayton since January 1, 1866. On that night, the Turner Opera House, the first of the Victory's many names, opened with the classic Greek tragedy, Virginius. The Opera House remained the cultural center of the Dayton area until May 16, 1869, when a fire destroyed the building's interior. The theatre was reborn in 1871 under the name Music Hall, and in 1895 it was renamed the Grand Opera House when it became the center of Dayton's centennial celebration.

Disaster struck the theatre again during the great flood of 1913. The citizens of Dayton, however, were not willing to allow their beloved Opera House to go to ruin, and it was resurrected as the Victoria Opera House shortly after the flood. But when water could not destroy the theatre, fire tried again, and on January 15, 1916, flames engulfed the theatre and caused over $150,000 in damages.

William A. Keys brought the theatre back to life in 1919. This time it was named Victory to commemorate United States efforts in World War I. This began the longest and most successful run in the theatre's history. Business was booming--first with stage shows in the 1920s and 1930s, then with silent films and eventually movies. The Victory Theatre was at the center of many social and cultural events in Dayton.

The success of the theatre continued until the early 1970s, when another disaster struck. This time the problems were economic. Growing suburbs steered people away from downtown Dayton and the Victory Theatre. In 1975 the owners decided to give up on the theatre and demolish the building to make a parking lot. Their decision was met with fierce opposition from many in the Dayton community. A small band of students, arts patrons, and other supporters began to raise money to "Save the Victory," and they signed a one year lease to protect the building from destruction. This "Save the Victory" committee evolved into the Victory Theatre Association, which has managed to keep the theartre alive through individual and corporate donations and patronage. The VTA restored the interior of the theatre and began a regular fall/winter theatre season. The work of these dedicated individuals saved the landmark that has stood at the corner of First and Main streets since 1866 from total destruction.

In 1988 the Victory Theatre was acquired by the Arts Center Foundation and was renamed the Victoria Theatre.