The Red Cloud Opera House, which closed its doors as such by 1920, was owned by the Morhart family for 106 years until it was donated to the Willa Cather Foundation in 1991. Over the years it has been used for various businesses, offices, apartments, and storage.
The Willa Cather Foundation raised $1.2 million for the renovation, and in May 2001 launched a $1.1 endowment campaign for program and operational support. The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded the Willa Cather Foundation a $275,000 challenge grant for the Opera House in December 2001, which the Foundation matched three-to-one and met its goal in July 2006.
Renovation started in August 2001 and was completed in February 2003 by Farris Construction of Hastings, Nebraska.
The renovated structure houses not only the original second-floor auditorium and lobby, but also a first-floor visitors' center, bookstore, art gallery and exhibition space, and the Willa Cather Foundation offices.
The exterior of the historic Red Cloud Opera House has been restored to look much as it did in 1885. The original cast-iron facade columns have been cleaned, refurbished, and painted, and the brick masonry construction re-conditioned to its original appearance. The double-hung upper floor windows have been restored to the original configuration, and now contain arched openings.
Designed to provide a full range of facilities for visitors, scholars, and staff members, the interior includes gallery and exhibition space, the Willa Cather Foundation bookstore, meeting room, multi-purpose room, kitchenette, work room, lobby, custodial space, mechanical and electrical room, and, of course, the Opera House auditorium.
A fire-rated stair enclosure is located at the rear of the building to service all levels of the Opera House, and a new passenger elevator has been installed, as well as new toilet facilities, heating systems, fire protection systems, electrical services, and lighting and power distribution systems.