Construction of the Elkader Opera House was completed in November 1903, replacing the old Turner Opera House which was destroyed by fire earlier that year. Within four days of the Turner House fire, the community raised $10,000 for the construction of the current building. The building, as described in the April 16, 1903 issue of the Elkader Register, was “to be 50x2102 feet, with a handsome front of pressed brick.”
Amazing enough by the fall of 1903 the opera house manager was arranging for a playacting company from Chicago to perform on the new stage. George M. Cohen’s musical, The Governor’s Son (performed by the Cohen Brothers), opened in the rebuilt theater on November 27, 1903. Special trains ran from McGregor and other towns along the Milwaukee rail line to bring the audience to the show. Today, memorabilia from that celebrated event decorate the walls of the opera house.
Productions on the Chicago-Minneapolis circuit were a regular part of its early offerings. The early productions performed on the stage were sometime so large that when the local hotel became full, the actors stayed in the homes of Elkader residents.
Eventually the heyday of touring big city acts ended leading the Elkader Opera House to house a variety of functions. Over the years the Opera House has served as a club and community room, dance hall, roller rink, library, fire station, economic development office Main Street Elkader office, city hall and as the Abdel-Kader Sister City Museum. Throughout its history, the Elkader Opera House has maintained a central role in the social and civic life of Elkader.
The Elkader Opera House is home to the Keystone Barbershop Chorus and the Opera House Players.
In late 2004 the Opera House underwent an intensive restoration process restoring the historic building to it’s original grandeur. This process has led the way for the Elkader Opera House to be one of the most talked about and visited small theaters in the midwest.