Barthell Opera House

14 Allamakee Street,
Waukon, IA 52172

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Barthell Opera House

In late-1914, the Western Construction Co. of La Crosse, WI entered the winning bid of $28,000 for the construction of a new opera house. This replaced an older facility to the south, known as the Armory. It had opened by sometime in 1915.

The structure was a broad and deep buff brick building in the Prairie style, with large storefronts to either side of the entrance. There was a large stage, and a generous balcony. Apparently devoted mainly to vaudeville, it’s unclear exactly when it began showing movies. It does appear in the 1926 listings. By 1932, it seems to have withdrawn from the movie business.

Despite the closure, the building survived, in good repair, operating as a pizza restaurant. It was destroyed by a fire on October 22, 2007. Unfortunately, as with many dwindling downtowns, the site is today a parking lot.

Contributed by Seth Gaines

Recent comments (view all 1 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 11, 2023 at 4:14 pm

The Barthel Opera House building was destroyed by a fire that started in the early morning hours of October 22, 2007. At the time of its destruction it was occupied by a restaurant called Wild Willy’s Pizza Saloon. It’s likely that the Barthell was equipped to show movies from the time of its construction, as a notice that the house was nearing completion appeared in the July 24, 1915 issue of Moving Picture World. Still, trade journal mentions of Waukon after that are invariably about the Cota (or Cote) Theatre, so the Barthell was probably never the town’s most important movie venue.

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