Before the Lyceum, there was
THE CORNWELL OPERA HOUSE
1864 - 1900
The Yates Lyceum, predecessor of The Sampson Theatre, was not the first venue for stage shows in Penn Yan. Over Long's Book Store, above the tall windows, shadows of the words "Opera House" can barely be seen!
This large old building has undergone many changes and has hosted many businesses throughout the years. Upstairs, it houses an auditorium which served many purposes during the first 100 years of it's existence. These listings are found on Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps:
1892 - Scenery removed, no longer used as opera house.
1897 - Public hall.
1903 - YMCA.
1915 - Moving Picture, Play house.
1939 - Christian Science Church.
Reportedly, the old auditorium hosted a halloween party for Penn Yan kids around 1950. Now dark and empty, it has not been used for, perhaps, 57 years.
Many changes can be seen by comparing these two photographs. The stairway accessing the second floor was moved from the extreme right end of the building (in the top photo just left of the Barber Pole) to a position under the "ANDREW" of the ANDREW MacKAY sign. At the far end was an open passageway which led through the building to livery stables behind. This area and the Cornwell and Lown store areas have been opened up into one store, now occupied by the Long's Bookstore.
For changes to the interior made in 1874, see this 1874 NEWS ARTICLE
The stage was originally at the west end of the auditorium, and the gallery at the East end. In 1874, these positions were reversed. (Article) The photo above can be presumed to be before the change, as the front of the stage has a different shape than seen below.
At some point the wall's 1874 frescoes (which were done "in excellent style") were painted over, the curtains and seating have vanished, and The area, now unusable as a public hall due to safety regulations, has fallen into disrepair.
This view is from the South wing of the gallery (balcony). At the rear of the stage there are four windows, now boarded up. These windows can be seen from the parking lot behind Long's Book Store.