The Wright Block

The Wright Block


The Wright Block is the large building to the right of the photo.
Same view in 1940 (allow time to load)

From "Fifty Years of Progress", The Odebolt Chronicle, Vol. 51, No. 31, August 25, 1938

     Old residents of Odebolt and vicinity have many memories of plays and other entertainment staged in the "Opera Hall."  For almost 60 years this hall has played a part in the life of the community.
     The construction of the hall was due to the enterprise of John Wright, one of the town's original bankers.  When, in 1881, he constructed the two-story brick building on the southeast corner of Second and Main streets, he made provisions for the whole second floor, with the exception of two offices at the front, to be used as a place for public entertainment.  A stage was provided and seating space, including plank bleachers in the rear, was arranged for 500 persons.  This hall now [in 1938] owned by F. W. Mattes, was long considered the best in Sac County.

SOME HISTORY

ODEBOLT OBSERVER, Volume 1, No. 46, May 18, 1881
--Stones are being delivered on the ground for the basement of Mr. Wright's new block on Second street, also for the new building of L. Schmitz on Main street

ODEBOLT OBSERVER, VOL. 1, NO. 48, June 1, 1881
--The excavation of the new brick block of Mr. Wright, corner of Second and Maple streets, is about completed and the foundation commenced. The work will be pushed forward as fast as possible. The block when completed will cost $10,000.

ODEBOLT OBSERVER, Vol. 2, No. 2, July 13, 1881
--We have been favored with a look at the plan of the Wright Block as it will appear when completed, and must say it will be a beautiful and imposing structure, far in advance of anything previously attempted along the line of the Maple Valley road, so far as we have seen. It will be a worthy monument to the enterprise and public spirit of its builder. It will cost not less than $10,000 and be named, as just indicated, the "Wright Block." This is right; Wright is right, and the block is Wright, and it's all right, just as we write.

ODEBOLT OBSERVER, VOL. 2, NO. 6, AUGUST 10, 1881
--Hanson, Mattes & Co. will occupy one of the rooms in the new Wright Block, when completed.

ODEBOLT OBSERVER, Vol. 2. No. 8. August 24, 1881
--It has been generally supposed that Mr. Wright's bank would be moved to the new block when completed. We are informed, however, that the bank will remain where it is, and that both the store rooms in the new block have already been rented.

--The temporary delay in work on the Wright block, occasioned by the non-arrival of lumber is now over, and the walls of the building are going up rapidly.

ODEBOLT OBSERVER, Vol. 2. No. 8. August 31, 1881
--Brick-laying has commenced on the Wright block on Second street, and Mr. Schmitz's building on Main street, and the work is now going bravely forward.
--The ceremony of laying the corner stone of the Wright block took place this A. M. and was very impressive. John dropped a C greenback into the cavity, George a law book and we contributed a copy of the OBSERVER, and various other contributions were made that will astonish and delight the future antiquary.

ODEBOLT REPORTER, Vol. VII, No. 7, December 28, 1883
The "Christmas ship" in Wright's Hall was something new to the people of Odebolt, and the Hall was crowded. The exercises opened with a short speech by Rev. Mr. Thompson, followed by singing and then speeches by Rev. Mr. Brown and Rev. R. S. Fysh. The boat was arranged on rollers, behind the scenes, and at the proper time was launched out upon the stage, loaded with presents for everybody. Mr. Frank Hoyt took the part of Santa Claus. The receipts were over $24, which is very good, considering the number who were admitted as "Sunday-school scholars."

FROM DOROTHY GROMAN ELLIS' BOOK
...there were two furniture stores, and over one was a large hall with a very smooth polished floor, which was called the Opera House. It served as a dance hall as well as a scene for home talent, or traveling plays, although some of the latter carried their own tents.  It was also where our churches held their bazaars. They would construct booths to display various homemade wares along the sides, and tables would be set up in the center for serving dinners, for which the charge was 35 cents first, later 50 cents. These bazaars were big events of the year….

--On another red-letter day that I recall, my father came home at noon and announced that that evening in the Opera House they were going to show a moving picture and he was going to take all of us to see it. It was hard to believe that such a thing was possible, that someone had been able to invent a camera, which would take pictures of people and show them moving. But we got ready in our Sunday best and went to the Opera Hall. The chairs were all arranged for people to face the platform in front. They had put a large white screen up there and the program opened with pictures of the New York City Fire Department - great white horses or dappled grey, galloping as they hauled great fire engines to a fire. That was certainly exciting. And that was followed by something equally exciting, a story of the Great Train Robbery. …. We were so excited and carried away that it seemed something that just couldn't be true.

THE CHERRY SISTERS
in February 1898 the infamous Cherry Sisters performed  in the Wright Block Opera House in Odebolt.  Billy Hamilton, the outspoken editor of The Odebolt Chronicle, wrote a scathing review and was later sued by the sisters along with the Des Moines Leader for $15,000 in the Polk County District Court, leading to a landmark ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court.
Read more at "Billy Hamilton & the Cherry Sisters".

THE ODEBOLT CHRONICLE, "Fifty Years of Progress", Vol. 51, Number 31, Thursday, August 25, 1938
Roller skating in the Mattes hall, formerly Wright's hall, is nothing new.  The hall was used for skating as early as 1883.  The Reporter said "he has purchased a lot of parlor skates."

[We would be interested in hearing stories about events that were held in the "Opera House".  Please contact us if you are willing to share! - ]

See a 1903-04 Opera Program
with cast of characters and personnel

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