Houston Opera House (Klamath Falls)

Houston Opera House

1894-1920

Main & 2nd Street, Klamath Falls, Oregon

Houston Opera House – Photo by Fred Houston.


1909 Sanborn Map

Houston Opera House is clearly shown on the Sanborn map from 1909. It is also the boldest type here, maybe showing the prominence of the Opera House.

The Evening Herald. February 7, 1916

Number of seats:
There were around 250 seats at the Houston Opera House. Although, at the peak of its success with the introduction of vaudeville performances (melodramas, minstrel shows and more), nearly 700 people were trying to squeeze into the Opera House at one point.

Owners/managers:
Brothers from Colorado John V. Houston and J.A. Houston were the owners of the Opera House although J.V. had a bigger role in the upkeep of this theater. J.V. being a former newspaper publisher imagined a different way to entertain the public. Thus, Houston Opera House was born in 1894. Houston and his family moved from Colorado to Oregon in 1894 and purchased the Houston Opera House in 1897. He and his brother, J.A. Houston, named it the Houston Opera House to honor their father, who had loaned them the funds to purchase the property.

In 1912, J.V. continued to pursue this field of entertainment and owned and operated two more theaters (Temple and Star) before eventually selling the Opera House in 1920 due to the Spanish Influenza affecting sales in 1918, which killed nearly 40 citizens causing the film industry and entertainment fields to slow down.

The Evening Herald. December 24, 1913
The Evening Herald. December 27, 1915

When a fire destroyed the Opera House on September 6th, 1920 many citizens blamed John V. This forced him to retire before he died in 1935.

Programming notes:
The Opera House was more than a theater for film as it became the hub for the city’s arts & culture. Events such as dances, club meetings, sports events and church services were offered here. This wasn’t just a place to catch your favorite film but hypnotists, boxing matches, traveling circuses and more premiered here.

The Evening Herald. November 20, 1911


The Evening Herald. December 10, 1915

 

 

 

 

 

The Evening Herald. April 21, 1914
The Evening Herald. February 7, 1916

The most notorious motion picture showings found at the Opera House include “The Battle Cry of Peace” and “The Escape”. Additionally, there were many performances of famous people at the time: Actors like Mary Pickford appeared on the big screen, screenings of D.W. Griffiths films were often features, many musicians performed… The list goes on and on.

The Evening Herald. November 3, 1916

Promotional strategies notes:
Houston Opera House was honored as the first theater in Klamath Falls with a Vitagraph machine. The Edison Projectoscope was used from 1901 onward, thus giving Klamath Falls and its citizens access to big titled names like Teddy Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders” in Cuba. This gave this small town in Oregon a look to another place in the world, because they may never get to see it in person themselves.

The Evening Herald. November 10, 1916


J.V. Houston was often found to try new ways of advertising. He was an innovator from the very beginning.

The Evening Herald. August 12, 1914

Notable Details:

The early 1900s weren’t shy to have their blunt racism showed. At the time, it wasn’t defined as “racism” but just as the way things were. But looking back, it is interesting to see “blackface” widely advertised and accepted.

The Evening Herald. December 29, 1915

Houston Opera House was destroyed on Labor Day 1920, due to a building across the street (Houston Hotel) going up in flames. The fire resulted in 13 deaths and much damage to buildings on Main & 2nd street.

The Evening Herald. March 16, 1917.

Citations
1. “Houston Opera House Circa 1900” Oregon Encyclopedia. March 17, 2018 (last update).

2. “Klamath Falls to Show 16 & 17” The Evening Herald. February 7, 1916. 4.
3. “J.V. Houston Honored. The Evening Herald. December 24, 1913. 1.

4. “Houston’s Metropolitan Amusements” The Evening Herald. December 29, 1915. 4.

5.”Twentieth Mask Ball This Week”The Evening Herald. December 27, 1915. 4.
6. “Minstrels Will Show Two Nights” The Evening Herald. November 20, 1911. 1.
7. “Episcopal Services” The Evening Herald. December 10, 1915. 4.
8. “Senior Class” The Evening Herald. April 21, 1914. 4.

9. “The Battle Cry of Peace” The Evening Herald. February 7, 1916. 4.
10.”‘The Escape’ Coming to The Opera House.” The Evening Herald. November 3, 1916. 5.

11.”Houston Opera House Experiment Astounds Musical Klamath Falls” November 10, 1916. 3.

12. “Flagpole is Used as a Billboard” The Evening Herald. August 12, 1914. 4.
13. “Clowns, blackface, Colonial, mexican…” The Evening Herald. December 29, 1915. 4.

14. “The Last Days of Pompeii” The Evening Herald. March 16, 1917. 4.