History - Opera Houses

Opera houses were an important center for entertainment in "civilized" Iowa communities during the late 1800's and early 1900's.  Anita, Atlantic, Cumberland, Griswold, and Massena all had opera houses.  The opera house was a building where people could go to see a famous theatrical or musical artist perform, see a talent show or the latest touring production.

Atlantic Opera House

Atlantic Opera House, Atlantic, Iowa

In "Opera Houses of Iowa", authors Glenn and Poole list five opera houses in Atlantic, three of which were also known as Atlantic Opera House. These three may in fact be the same facilty at different points in time, but that is not immediately discernable. Glenn and Poole list:

1. Bacon Opera House (also called The Opera House or The Atlantic Opera House), built in 1880 by H. E. Bacon in association with A. A. Hubbard and A. E. Stevens, managed by H. E. Bacon (1883-1886), seating capacity 600;

2. Whitney's Hall, ca. 1883, managed by F. H. Whitney;

3. Academy of Music, ca. 1889, managed by R. H. Bigler or R. H. Bailey, seating 250;

4. (Atlantic) Opera House, ca. 1889, seating 500 on the main floor and 200 in the balcony; and

5. Atlanta, also known as Atlantic Opera House ca. 1896, managed by Lester L. Tilden (1896), C. P. Hubbard (1901-1909), W. P. Frost (1914-19??) and Fred Herbert (1921), seating capacity 528.

Glenn and Poole cite conflicting information regarding current usage of Bacon Opera House, "Some say it was torn down. Some say it currently is a movie theatre." The "History of Atlantic 1888-1968" published by the Chamber of Commerce for the Atlantic Centennial indicates that the Bacon Opera House building is the one occupied by the Atlantic Theatre in recent years.

Atlantic Opera House, Atlantic, Iowa

The first photo post card above (top of the page) is signed Grace M., addressed to Mrs. Lyman Richman, Griswold Iowa and postmarked Cumberland, Iowa, 1912.


History of Atlantic, Iowa 1868-1968, published by the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, April, 1968, pp. 44-45.
The Opera Houses of Iowa, by George D. Glenn and Richard L. Poole, Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa, 1993.

First (top) postcard contributed by Cheryl Siebrass, October, 2009. Second postcard is postally ununused,contributed by Cheryl Siebrass, May, 2010.

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