Wright Leppien Opera House
In September 2019, 39 students, including several graduate assistants, moved in to the restored Wright Leppien Opera House. The Opera House offers apartment style living with complete kitchens and private bedrooms. Laundry facilities, community lounge areas, and vending services are all available in the building. The first floor of the Opera House will house several businesses new to the downtown area. The Opera House offers students the opportunity to live in the heart of downtown Alma near a variety of restaurants, shops, the community theater and more, while still being just a short walk from campus.
Students wishing to live in the apartments must participate in the apartment selection process in the winter semester.
The Opera House block was built by Alma College founder and lumber baron, Ammi Wright. Construction took place from 1877 to 1880. The cost to build the Opera House block was $20,000, a huge sum at the time, particularly in small, rural Alma.
During its existence the opera house has been the town’s meeting place, the venue for theatrical productions, the location of graduation ceremonies, and more. It served as a hub for social and economic activity for more than a century.
In 2010, the opera house was gutted by a devastating fire. Yet, the solid foundation Ammi Wright had built more than a hundred years before had survived. Kurt Wassenaar, an investor with roots in Alma, purchased the building to save it from demolition. Wassenaar had dreams of someday restoring the building to its original glory. In 2013, the Alma Opera House Block was registered on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2017, ownership of the Opera House block transferred to Alma College. With generous gifts from philanthropic supporters, community and college benefactors, the Opera House was restored, and in October 2019 it was dedicated and opened to students as a new residential option.
Read the complete history of the Opera House Block.