Like so many historic buildings, the Elkader Opera House has served different functions over time. It has been a club, community room, dance hall, museum, library, fire station, economic development office, city has and even a roller rink. But originally, this beautiful brick building overlooking the Turkey River was an opera house, and a famous one at that. Built in 1903, it hosted some of the best plays in the Chicago-Minneapolis circuit and was a destination for train travelers on the Milwaukee rail line.
In 2002, restoration began to return the opera house to its original glory. The most work was required at the front of the building. Entire walls were removed, painting ensued and bathrooms were modernized. The design for a new grand staircase was carefully researched. Modeled after comparable Midwest staircases of the period it was fashioned in Southern Yellow Pine, the original staircase material. American Seating out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the same company that had built the house seats in 1903, assisted in reconfiguring them so the original metal frames could be preserved while still offering more comfortable padded bottoms. Fire Farm Lighting n Elkader completed the powder coat finish on the chair's metal components and local residents applied the gold highlights. In passionate collaboration crews worked on each and every aspect of the auditorium, stage and lobby to ensure completion by November 27, 2003-the 100th anniversary of the opera house's first production called, The Governor's Son. To celebrate the reopening of the opera house Elkader's theater company, the Opera House Players, performed the very same show to a very excited full house.
The Elkader Opera House hosts a wide range of local, regional and nationally-known artists. The Opera House Players put on a spring and fall production each year and local musical groups like the Keystone Barbershop Chorus and Big Blue Sky are area favorites. Over the years, major talent has included: the Smothers Brothers, Riders in the Sky, Herman's Hermits, Jim Stafford, Kingston Trio and the Manhattan Lyric Opera.
Elkader Opera House is a charming and intimate setting. The views are great from every seat and the new state of the art sound system ensures a quality experience. Visit their website to find out about upcoming shows. For a guided tour contact the Opera House Manager.