The Reed Opera House is the only truly monumental building
dating from the nineteenth century remaining in the center
of Oregons Capital City, with the exception of the First
Methodist Church and Waller Hall on the Willamette University
campus. Architecturally, it is significant as a choice
example of commercial Italianate design somewhat typical of
West Coast building of its day. G. W. Rhodes, the architect,
was also responsible for the castellated brick masonry State
Penitentiary of 1870, a structure no longer in existence.
Historically, it is significant as Salems early cultural
and social center. It was a product of the rapid growth the
town enjoyed upon development of the Oregon and California
Railroad, which provided (in addition to the Willamette River)
another, faster link to West Coast markets.General Cyrus A.
Reed, who built the Opera House, had been Adjutant General
of Oregon during the later part of the Civil War. He was interested
in womens rights, spiritualism and dramatics. He was
a self-taught artist who painted the scenes for his theater.
He built the Opera House from funds obtained through real
estate development. At first, he ran both the Opera House
and the Reed Opera House Hotel. The project proved to be more
costly than planned and he had great difficulty in salvaging
his interests.From its grand opening on October 9, 1869, with
"The Female Gambler" the Opera House provided a
stage for traveling dramatic troupes, the Salem Dramatic Association,
the Salem Musical Union, the Firemen's Annual New Years
Ball, gubernatorial inaugurations, political meetings, community
celebrations, and fortnightly dances. Many lecturers and entertainers,
and other visitors to the Capital City found a public hall
and an audience at the Opera House.
On April 20, 1900 the Opera House closed because the Grand
Theater Opera House, also in downtown Salem was more readily
accessible from the street level.The Reed Opera House Hotel
opened as a first class operation, but quickly became a second
class institution in competition with the larger Chemeketa
House, later known as the Marion Hotel. On the other hand,
the Opera House Saloon was the best in town around 1893 and
was the center of the city's heaviest gambling.
The 1900 redevelopment on behalf of Joseph Meyers and Sons
(later Millers Department Store) was a most successful
economic venture and with the addition of Montgomery Ward
and J. C. Penney to the street, Liberty became the retail
center, somewhat displacing Commercial Street in that capacity.The
introduction of larger stores from Portland after World War
II, temporarily ended the vitality of Salem's downtown retail
core but close attention from merchants and city government
has sustained its viability. Today the Reed Opera House serves
as a shopping center, a home for several cafes and restaurants
and hosts many community gatherings in its conference rooms.
Researched and written by Paul Porter and Susan Gibby.
Record Number: PCAB7
Location: Arthur Bates Postcards
Photo Source: Salem Public Library
Date of Photo: 1888
Record Number: SJ544
Location: Statesman Journal photo
Photographer: Poush, Dan
Copyright/ownership: Statesman Journal photo
Photo Source: Salem Public Library
Date of Photo: 1965-1978
Record Number: MJON0224
Copyright or Ownership: Photograph property of the Marion
County Historical Society. Copyright restrictions may apply.
Photo Source: Marion County Historical Society
Date of Photo: about 1890