The Grand Opera House

Michael Bushnell
Publisher


The Grand Opera House, located at 704 Walnut Street, is this week’s historic postcard printed in Germany and a wonderful example of a hand-colored postcard from the early 20th century.


The Romanesque Revival-style theater opened with live entertainment on October 3, 1891.


The Grand was owned by Abraham Judah and Melville Hudson, former managers of the Coates Opera House. Opening in 1891 as a stage venue, the Grand saw such notable actors as Ethel Barrymore and George M. Cohan play its stage.


A drugstore stood to the right of the main canopy, and a saloon operated on the left side of the main entrance. Inside the opera house’s walls were fine oil paintings to greet the “highbrow” clientele who patronized the saloon between acts of the plays.


According to the Cinema Treasures website, The Grand was operated by the Dublinski Brothers in 1920, still presenting a mix of both live theater and silent films. By 1922, the Elliott Brothers Circuit had taken over the theater and had plans drawn up to revamp the exterior and convert the interior to presenting exclusively movies. Those plans never came to fruition as the city’s Theater District developed a few blocks to the south, leaving the Grand a lonely survivor of a bygone era. The theater closed for good on Christmas Day 1922, remaining vacant until its conversion by the Scarritt Family Trust into a parking deck in 1926. It was shuttered some 80 years later, fenced off for demolition, finally tumbling to the wrecking ball in 2011. Surface parking now occupies the spot, another historic and significant structure demolished in the name of development.


The message on the back is barely legible in spots but can still be made out. It reads, “Dear Gunnild, How are you? We are fine and dandy. Thank you for the nice postal cards you sent me. You must come over Sunday, ask your mother if you can’t. I haven’t very much to reveal, but I think I have to close for this time. Tell Gilda hello from me. Love, Freida.” The card was mailed to Miss Gunnild Homme, RFD 1, Thompson, North Dakota.

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