The structure was erected in 1867 at a cost of $89,000. It seated 2,000 persons. It opened on December 17, 1867, with a temperance lecture. Later it was sold and remodeled; it reopened as the Lyceum Theatre in 1898. In 1904 it was lost in a cataclysmic fire that claimed one additional theater and six stores in downtown Elmira.
On an unknown date in 1868, Twain delivered a lecture titled "The American Vandal" while he was in Elmira wooing Olivia Langdon, his future wife.
On February 25, 1878, Ingersoll delivered "Liberty," one of his most popular political lectures.
The Opera House site is now occupied by Five Star Bank's downtown Elmira branch.