Quaint brick streets and carefully-preserved Victorian architecture surround our lovely 2-acre Park in the Square, the focal point of an entire downtown listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Our two landmarked architectural treasures—the Old McHenry County Courthouse and the Woodstock Opera House—welcome visitors with dignity and charm. Both facilities are owned and maintained by the City of Woodstock, reflecting the community’s strong affection for historic preservation, arts and culture.
Our beautiful Opera House was built in 1889 and originally served as City Hall, the Police Station, the Fire Station, and the Library. The 375-seat “Steamboat Gothic” style auditorium now showcases a year-round schedule of 500 performing and visual arts events including theatre, music, dance, and speaking programs. Extensive research has gone into restoring every architectural detail, making it a favorite venue for local and national touring performers and audiences alike.
The majestic Old McHenry County Courthouse, one of the few pre-Civil War Courthouses still standing in the Midwest today, was built by Chicago’s premier architect John Mills Van Osdel. Van Osdel designed numerous Chicago buildings as well as the Illinois Governor’s Mansion that recently reopened. The Courthouse features many fascinating architectural details such as 20-ft. ceilings, historic jail cells and hand-painted vaults…even a chalkboard tally of McHenry County votes from the 1972 national election! This building is currently undergoing major restoration and is therefore not handicapped accessible or able to offer bathroom facilities. It does, however, include a fine art gallery on the first floor, as well as an excellent dining establishment, with patio service, at the ground level. Stop by and “drink to World Peace,” just like Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell did when Groundhog Day was filmed here in 1992.
Families and friends gather on the Square for summer City Band concerts now in their 134th season, and annual events that attract thousands, including springtime’s Fair Diddley Craft Show, summer’s Wizarding World of Woodstock and TruckOff Food Truck Fest, the holiday season’s Lighting of the Square, and winter’s Groundhog Days Festival. Music for every taste—from Folk to Mozart to Jazz—can be heard most nights, along with affordable first-run movies at the renovated 1927 Woodstock Theatre. Of special interest is the newly-created Woodstock on Film and on the Stage Mural and Sculpture Garden in the Main Street Pedway next to the movie theatre. The 118-ft. long hand-painted mural, produced and funded by community volunteers, depicts four Woodstock entertainment legends: Chester Gould/Dick Tracy, Stars of the Opera House, Orson Welles, and the film Groundhog Day, along with an informational display explaining each image’s importance to Woodstock’s cultural history.
Visitors are encouraged to arrive in Woodstock early and take advantage of outstanding musical entertainment at the Opera House on Friday, August 24, at 7:30pm, when vocalist Dave Halston presents a tribute to the iconic Frank Sinatra, a performance that critics call "stunning" and "spot-on”. Saturday morning offers our award-winning producers-only Woodstock Farmer’s Market on the Square, a lively gathering with entertainment and eats. Be sure to visit our artisan shops and wonderful independent bookstore. Later that evening, from 7:00pm-9:00pm on August 25th, enjoy Northwest Area Arts Council’s free Gala Reception at the Old Courthouse Arts Center for the Real People fine art exhibition. This international juried exhibition celebrates the arts through faces and figures and is one of NAAC’s most popular shows each year. The gallery is open from 11:00am – 5:00pm on Sunday as well. For Doors Open Illinois building tours, please check in first at Stage Left Café, located at 125 W. Van Buren Street and adjacent to the Opera House, from 9:00am until 4:00pm on Saturday, and 11:00am until 2:00pm on Sunday. Also managed by the City of Woodstock, the Café offers beverages and snacks and washroom facilities for your convenience. Both found on the historic downtown Square, the Old McHenry County Courthouse is located at 101 N. Johnson Street and the Woodstock Opera House is located at 121 W. Van Buren Street. For additional information, visit:
• Woodstock History: www.woodstockil.gov under Welcome Visitors • Old McHenry County Courthouse and Sheriff’s House – www.friendsoftheoldcourthouse.org • Woodstock Opera House – www.woodstockoperahouse.com We can’t wait to welcome you to Woodstock for Doors Open Illinois, and hope you’ll come back often!