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Courtesy Mike Avitt

Opera House, circa 1912

Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa

Mount Ayr's Opera House was located at 104 East Monroe Street. The opera house first appears on the Sanborn Map of Mount Ayr in 1893 which extended from Monroe Street almost all the way to the alley. Because Mount Ayr's first brick high school did not have a gymnasium, basketball games were played at the opera house until a new gymnasium was built in 1913. The opera house was noted on a 1919 Mount Ayr map with the notation, "Vacant and Dilapidated."

Zella (CAMPBELL) SWARTZ scrapbook, Mount Ayr Depot Musuem, Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa.

A Centennial History of Mount Ayr, Iowa: 1875-1975

Mount Ayr Record-News, Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa. August 18, 2005.

AVITT, Mike. Pages and Pictures from the Past . . . Ringgold County, Iowa: 1885-2005 p. 41. Paragon Publications, Inc. Mount Ayr, Iowa. 2009.

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, June 08, 2015, Page 9

By Mike Avitt

This week's photo (above) comes from the scrapbook of Zella (Campbell) Swartz which was donated to the Mount Ayr Depot Museum by her niece Norma Swartz French. It is the only picture I've ever seen of the Mount Ayr Opera House.

The poster outside the opera house says, "Thursday, April 20." Aprill 20th fell on a Thursday in 1911 so I'm calling this photo 1911. Also, Zella Campbell graduated from "this" school in 1912 so, again, I feel 1911 is accurate.

When I said "school," I really meant it. The new 1913 school building was under construction during the 1911-12 school year so Mount Ayr High School students attended classes at the opera house and the upstairs of the Simpson building at 112 S. Taylor Street. High school basketball games were also played at the opera house. Other activities included plays, roller skating, music concerts, and lectures.

The Mount Ayr Centennial Book says the opera house was built in 187i by E. J. Pratt on the lot south of the T.L. Tullis livery barn. It was later moved to 104 E. Monroe. My Sanborn plat map shows the opera house at 104 E. Monroe as early 1893.

After the new school was built, the opera house became obsolete. The new schoolhouse had a very large auditorium and a modern gymnasium. But, I do have some information about one business that occupied the opera house before it was dismantled.

Before 1914, Mount Ayr had multiple monument companies. One was the Mount Ayr Granite and Mable Works owned by Ralph Stone. Mr. Stone died suddenly in January 1914 and his business was sold by the estate to D. N. Kelsey and Lew Johnston. Kelsey and Johnston continued the Granite and Marble Works name, moving the business to the old opera house in January 1915. A year a half later the pair dissolved their partnership and Johnston teamed up with a man named T. J. Mahan. Kelsey continued business in the old opera house taking on a partner named Nicholas.

My Sanborn map says the opera house was vacant and dilapidated in 191. E. S. Downie bought and dismantled the opera house in late 1919 and used the lumber in constructing the house at 225 Dunning Avenue. 104 E. Monroe was later the home of the Carl Peterson family. Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, June of 2015


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