Stylized Sunflower

Ragsdale Opera House
1885-1915

Stylized Sunflower
 
      The Ragsdale Opera House served as Newton's main center of entertainment for nearly 30 years. The grand opening was held on December 8, 1885, featuring Barney McCauley in the comedy Uncle Dan. Under construction since May 29, 1884, it was completed at a cost of $80,000. Located on this corner, the building measured 75 x 150 feet. The theatre was at the west end of the second and third floors. The ground floor consisted of six business rooms, one of which was occupied by Newton's Post Office. Seating capacity of the theatre was 800, exclusive of eight elegant private boxes which seated five each. There was a dress circle, a parquet, a balcony, and a gallery, ornamented in the latest fashions. The stage was 30 x 50 feet and reached from the stage floor to the top of the building. There were 32 sets of scenery. The belfry contained a three-faced Seth Thomas clock with a 600 pound bell that could be heard a distance of two miles on a quiet day. Every portion of the building was lighted with gas and heated with steam. The builders, James M. Ragsdale and his brother Thaddeus P. Ragsdale, quit a small grocery business in 1879 and became successful in real estate, lumber, cattle, and banking. They became bankrupt in 1890 and lost possession of the Opera House in 1892. The Opera Block continued to carry the Ragsdale name until J. H. Knoepker, who purchased the building on March 1, 1905, renamed it the Knoepker Opera House in 1907. On January 1, 1915, a fire destroyed the Opera House and several other businesses on the block.
Erected by the Harvey County Historical Society
 
Marker text sent by Robert Walter, Pittsburg, KS
 
Harvey County  
Main & Broadway, north west corner
Downtown Newton
Harvey County
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January 30, 2001 / Bob Walter / Wichita, Kansas / history@kslib.info

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