While diving into my research on theaters in Klamath Falls, Oregon during the 1905-1910 time period, I came across the Houston Opera House and learned some interesting information worth sharing.The Houston Opera House was originally purchased in 1897 by John V. Houston, a man who moved with his family from Colorado in 1894. When the original Houston Opera House was purchased, it was described as a vacant two-story building on Main Street near Second Avenue in Klamath Falls.
Houston was said to have added a brightly painted wooden façade and a large stage inside. John V. Houston and his brother, J. A. Houston, named this building the Houston Opera House to honor their father, who had loaned them the funds to get started. The original Houston Opera House, “…Quickly became the city’s cultural center, with community dances, costumed balls, club meetings, concerts, basketball games, and even church services on Sundays” (Oregon Encyclopedia).
In 1908, The Houston Opera House was renovated and became the only modern theater in Klamath Falls. These renovations included its ‘auditorium being fitted with 32 private box chairs, a horse shoe gallery to seat 250 people, folding seat chairs along the new scenery, drops, and flaps.
After researching The Houston Opera House, I came across information that stated the theater burned down twenty-six years after its purchase. A piece of research I discovered that I found most peculiar came from the Herald Newspaper. In the Wednesday newspaper on September 9, 1908, an article discusses how the newly renovated Houston Opera House will have eight new fire exits. Aside from advertising how the newly improved Opera House is the only modern theater in Klamath Falls, the theater uses its incorporation of more fire exits as a way to persuade people to come to the theater. While it is ironic that approximately 12 years later the Houston Opera House burned down, I became fascinated with trying to understand why discussing fire exits in a newspaper was seen as an advertising tactic for the theater. After researching fires near Klamath Falls during this time period, I discovered that forest fires were very prevalent during 1908. Just five days before the newspaper regarding the innovations to The Houston Opera House was published, The Evening Herald wrote an article regarding raging forest fires at Yamsay Mountain that had been active for weeks and were making their way toward Klamath Falls. Perhaps incorporating the increase of fire exits in the theater made people during this time feel safe and more comfortable with being ‘stuck’ in a theater for specific durations of time. All in all, I found this discovery to be interesting and insightful as it helped me to understand why fire exits were seen as an important promotional strategy.