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Jamestown Opera House

5/26/2006:

The Jamestown Alert made an exciting announcement to the citizens of the city on this day in 1892. The plans for the city’s new opera house had arrived from the well-known Minneapolis architect, Harry C. Carter. In 1892, most of the larger cities harbored at least one opera house, including Minneapolis, Grand Forks, and Watertown, South Dakota. Jamestown’s residents looked forward to building their own house to stage musical, theatrical, and artistic productions in the city.

The plans that arrived on that day also included the development of the rest of the block on which the opera house would be situated. The Lloyd Opera House, as it would be known, would be surrounded by office buildings, meeting halls, and small shops; these additions to the city were predicted to begin a building boom in the relatively young town. Well-known artists from the Twin Cities were brought in to decorate the three-story theater, which was equipped with a fifty-foot high ceiling, more than seven-hundred turquoise-blue seats, red and cream marble floors, elegantly frescoed walls, running toilets, and 450 electric lights. Electric lights were still a sort of novelty in Jamestown at the time, and the giant chandelier in the center of the theater’s dome alone held sixty of them.

When the plans arrived in the city, the town was so excited to begin building that the article in the Alert claimed that the work would be “…rushed to completion as fast as money and men can do it.” The opera house was completed less than seven months later, and opened for its first show on February 6, 1893. Shakespeare’s drama Julius Caesar was acted out by the Warde-James play company on that night, and the show was met by a full house of applauding citizens. The opening was hailed as “…the most distinguished event of a public kind ever seen in Jamestown.”

The Lloyd Opera House featured musicals, plays, vaudeville acts, and musicians from around the country until 1941, when the house was remodeled into the Grand Theater and exclusively showed motion pictures. In 1975, the theater was torn down as part of Jamestown’s Urban Renewal program, ending the building’s 82-year run as one of the finest artistic monuments of the city.

Sources:

Jamestown Alert, May 26, 1892: p.1.

Jamestown Alert, February 9, 1893: p. 1.

Forrest, Lois & James Smorada, Ed. Century of Stories, 1983. Fort Seward Historical Society, Inc. (pp. 179-180)