Stop D: Grand Opera House
Grand Opera House
311 N. Main St
The Opera House at 311 N Main is actually the second opera house at the site. John C. Mittelberger built a two-story brick building which housed an earlier opera house in the 1860ís & 70ís which was destroyed by fire in 1881. The Cosmos newspaper shared the second floor with the opera house. Witnesses to the fire claimed they heard the crash of the printing press over the roar of the flames as it fell through the second floor to the ground level. That same year, Mr. Mittelberger rebuilt the opera house as we see it today. The interior of the opera house reflected the elegance of the era and so did its patrons. The audience was as exquisitely dressed as the Opera House herself.
Rupert Hughes, the renowned Playwright and Author, wrote his first play while a student at the Saint Charles College in 1886 and presented this play at the Opera House. His brother, Howard R. Hughes, (later to be father to the famous tycoon Howard Hughes) also a student at the same school, had the leading role in this play.
Before we head to our next stop, there is a building worth mentioning at #215. Pause your ipod now and when you reach #215, continue by pressing the play button. (pause) This is where the old Bell Telephone Company was located in 1909. German shoemaker Valentine Zerr leased this building to the Bell Telephone Co for $40 per month in 1909. Operators connected all calls manually on the switchboard. They also recorded the name of the caller, number dialed, and the time of the call in minutes on individual tickets, which were given to the head operator at the end of the day. Requirements for phone operators included good voice and good penmanship. Common sense and patience were also needed to handle emergency calls and various questions from callers.
Our next stop is at 201 N Main. When you arrive, select stop "E" on the menu.