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Stafford Opera House gives its last performance

By TERRY SPRADLEY

The Pratt Daily Tribune

STAFFORD -- A crowd gathered outside of the historic old opera house Wednesday as the century old building gave its final performance with a crash of bricks and cloud of white dust.

"I should have sold tickets to this," said Stafford police Chief Doug Brown. "That way we could have used some of the money to pay for the demolition costs."

The old opera house was built circa 1911, on Broadway street just east of the Main business district. German immigrant August Weide organized the Stafford Opera Company in 1910 and the building followed shortly after. It was named the Weide in honor of August's efforts.

In its early days the Weide offered plays by the Morey Stock Company and other traveling shows, hosted graduations, poetry readings and other events.

In 1928 the town newspaper, The Stafford Courier took up residence in the basement and lower level with its printing presses and reporters desks.

But time and the elements were not on the Weide's side as it past the century mark. Roof damage was only part of the decaying process as the building crumbled with age, The Pratt Daily Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/145AjDz ).

"There were times when you could hear large chunks of plaster falling from the upper story," said Courier editor, David Green. "Once the roof went there wasn't much hope for it."

The city declared the building a hazardous structure and in 2013 gave the bid for demolition to Stone Sand Company in Great Bend.

There was a grassroots effort to save the building and get it on the historic building records, but the effort failed to come up with the needed capital.

"It's too bad," said Arlene Lickass as the large crane dismantled the walls. "But how much money do you spend on trying to save something like that?"

The large crane pulled down another wall exposing part of the old stage to the crowd that had gathered to watch the demolition.

"Oh, there's the old stage," Lickass said. "That is kind of sad."

Stafford business owner Clare Moore has revived four historic old houses and a church into a turn-of-the century neighborhood B&B style retreat known as the Henderson House Inn and Retreat Center.

"Yesterday, I was grieving the loss of the Weide Opera House," Moore said. "For some reason, things like this affect me. Perhaps it's because I have a vision for what such a building holds in potential value as a unique facility rather than what it might have looked like before demolition."