Batcher Opera House, 418 2nd Avenue NE, Staples, Minnesota

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Batcher Opera House

National Register of Historic Places Registration
Address: 418 2nd Avenue NE
Staples, Minnesota
Todd County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1907
Historic Function: Theater/concert hall
Historic Function: Hardware and Grocery Store
Other Historic Function: Hardware and Grocery Store
Current Function: Theater/concert hall
Architect or source of design: Charles Edward Batcher
Builder: Charles Edward Batcher
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Brick
First Owner: Charles Edward Batcher
Part of the Site: Batcher Block

Staples Todd

Batcher Opera House, 418 2nd Avenue NE, Staples, Minnesota
(46.355425° N, 94.793832° WLatitude: 46°21′19.53″N
Longitude: 94°47′37.795″W
National Register of Historic Places Information
Reference Number: 04000837
Certification date: June 22, 2004

Charles Edward Batcher was born near Rochester Minnesota in 1866. He studied architectural drawing in Minneapolis. By 1895 he had settled in Staples and in 1896 he married Jennie Root. Batcher's primary business was construction and he is credited with building at least 200 residences and commerical structures in Staples. He also operated a millwork factory which produced doors, windows and staircases for the interiors of his buildings. In 1907 he completed the construction of the two story Batcher Block building adjacent to the Main Street on 2nd Avenue and 4th Street NE.

On the ground floor was a grocery and a hardware store. On the second floor Batcher added an opera house with a proscenium stage, two private boxes and a balcony. The theater's design maximizes acoustics according to John Scott Russell’s theory of an “isacoustic curve.”

The walls gently slope upward toward coved ceilings, the seating slopes downward toward the stage. The predominant color of the theater's interior is a deep burgundy, by contrast, the private boxes are robin's egg blue. Elaborate cartouches, floral decorations, patriotic scenes and dragons ornament the interior.

It is said to be the finest intact original interior of any Opera House in Minnesota.

In 2002 Colleen Donley was diagnosed with cancer and given one year to live. Due to Colleen's love of historic buildings, she and her twin brother Chris decided to search for an "extreme home" an old building they could devote their energy to.

Chris heard about the Batcher Block building in Staples which had an antique store on the first floor. The second floor of the building was filled with old appliances and furniture blocking two large double wood doors.

He moved the items aside, and opened the doors into a large dark cluttered space. He went up a short staircase, opened a panel with early 20th century light switches and pushed them up. The lights still worked. They revealed the magnificent stage and theater of a 1907 Opera House which had been closed for 60 years!

Colleen and Chris purchased the Opera House from a descendant of the Batchers. They invested money in building repairs and maintenance. They revived the theater by bringing in musicians and entertainers like Louie Anderson and Lamont Cranston. They held concerts, catered weddings and hosted community events.

The decline in the economy, relocation of Highway 10 and other issues have led to the auction sale of the Opera House on September 20, 2011.



1907: Construction completed. The New Grocery, Batcher's Hardware, a second hardware store and a dry goods store open on ground floor.

Nov. 21, 1907: Opera house grand opening, featuring the play "Prince Karl" by the Mack-Leone Company, a Minnesota-based traveling theater troupe.

Nov. 3, 1908: Presidential election night supper held (William Howard Taft won).

1912: The Grand Theatre takes place of hardware store on ground floor.

1913: "Polly of the Circus" performed with horses, ponies, dogs and other animals on stage.

Late 1910s: Opera house begins to screen motion pictures.

1920s: Robert Batcher, son of Charles, takes over management of building.

1920s-'30s: Second-floor offices turned into apartments.

1934: Grand Theatre location replaced with hardware store.

Feb. 1934: Gathering to celebrate Franklin Delano Roosevelt's birthday held.

Mid-1930s to late 1940s: Opera house used as rolling skating rink.

Late 1940s: Opera house closes.

1958: Batcher's Federated Store, specializing in clothing, moves in on ground floor. Much of ground-floor north wall replaced with large display windows. Steel columns and beams put in to support sagging first-floor ceiling.

1991: Concrete facing installed on north and east first-floor facades.

1995: Department store remade into antique store.

July 27, 2003: Colleen Donley and Chris Frost of New York Mills and Tracy Erickson of Wadena buy Batcher Block from Joan Batcher, granddaughter of Charles Batcher.

June 4, 2004: Grand reopening of opera hall featuring Staples Community Band.[1]

Memories and stories

Photo Gallery

Related Links

Colleen Donley

Opera House Plays Dramatic Role

Living History

Staples World article

Auction notice

Watercolors of Scenic Backdrops U of MN

Litchfield Opera House

St. James Opera House

Lake Benton Opera House

Wisconsin Opera Houses

Ohio's Historic Opera Houses

American Theaters 19th Century

Julius Cahn Theatrical Directory


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