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Moore's Opera House

To Duck Block
  1882 - 1991  
Moore's Opera House, c. 1882
c. 1882
Moore's opera house site, 2008

In May of 1882, Colonel Harry C. Moore unveiled his "opera house" on the southwest corner of Cherry and Washington Streets.1 The building contained a grocery store on the first floor and a 1,000-seat theater on the second. Hundreds of people came on hired trains from Kansas City, Sedalia, and Fort Scott to attend the grand opening. None could have imagined that only five days later, the entire structure would burn down.

Col. Moore rebuilt his theater in 10 months (at a cost of $30,000) and it again hosted plays and moving pictures.7 In 1903 the Great Lilliputian Company appeared at the opera house, touted in the Daily Mail as "The greatest company of acting midgets in America, including Dolliette, the smallest leading lady in the world, only 28 inches high, assisted by fourteen of the brightest, cutest and funniest little men."6 A 1904 article from the Nevada Daily Mail advertises an upcoming film at Moore's Opera House by stating, " is not to be an ordinary lantern exhibit but will show ocean waves, moving trains, comic scenes, etc. in a manner so lifelike that one would think the scenes were actually taking place before their eyes."4 Admission was 35 cents ― 25 cents for the balcony.

Many Cottey College events took place in Moore's second opera house. Virginia Alice Cottey gave a speech there to the Southwest Teachers Association in 1884.2 A year later, the college held its first baccalaureate there. In the spring of 1886, Cottey held a literary and music concert in Moore's theater to raise funds for the first addition to Main Hall. Nevada High School held its graduation ceremonies there as well.

Unfortunately this second theater burned down in April of 1907, despite the efforts of some 3,000 people fighting the flames.5 Moore rebuilt the upper stories as offices, and moved his department store into the building's ground floor. The 20,000 square-foot store was lit by gas and electric lights, and employed over 30 clerks.  Moore's Department Store was sold and remodeled in 1949.3 The company lasted over 85 years, but by the 1970s the building was partially occupied by Bill's Dollar Store. In 1991, after being damaged by fire, the building was demolished.7

East Cherry Street, c. 1905
East Cherry Street with Moore's dry goods store on the left, c. 1910. Note the telephone poles.
Moore Department Store, 1915
Interior of Moore Dry Goods Co., 1915.8
East Cherry Street, c. 1905
Moore's department store on left, c. 1920. Note the flashy sign.
Moore Millinery Department, c. 1915
Moore's Millinery Department, c. 1915.8
  Moore's Dry Goods store
The old Moore Dry Goods store, 2008. It's currently (2010) being restored.

Works Cited:

  1. Sterett, Betty. Scenes From the Past (of Nevada, Missouri). Ed. Donna Logan. DGL InfoWrite: Boulder, CO, 1985. Print.
  2. Troesch, Helen DeRusha. Life of Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard. Wayside Press, Inc., 1955. Print.
  3. Brophy, Patrick. "Where the Ancestors Sleep." Vernon County Historical Society. Nevada, MO. 1997. Print.
  4. "The Way it Was." Nevada Daily Mail.. Nevada, MO. 4 Feb. 2004. Web.
  5. "The Way it Was." Nevada Daily Mail.. Nevada, MO. 10 Apr. 2007. Web.
  6. "The Way it Was." Nevada Daily Mail. Nevada, MO. 9 Oct. 2003. Web.
  7. Brophy, Patrick. Three Hundred Years: Historical Highlights of Nevada and Vernon County Missouri. DGL InfoWrite: Boulder, CO, 1993. Print.
  8. Baker Owens, Linda. "Picture Post Cards From Vernon County, Missouri." RootsWeb. Web.
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