Magnolia Opera House

This is a photograph of the Magnolia Opera House as it looks today.


    Imagine a sleepy little Missouri town is the late 1800s.  What would the few residents do for fun and entertainment?  Enter the Magnolia Opera House.  Built in 1889 for the cost of $18,000, the Magnolia Opera House held several small town plays, operas and programs.  The Opera House is located on 122 West Pine and the words "Magnolia Opera 1889" can still be seen today near the top of the building.
    The Magnolia Opera House used to hold a lot of plays, performances, etc.  The tickets were very cheap.  They were only twenty-five cents and ten cents extra for reserved seats.  You could buy tickets at Robinson's drug store. The Opera House could hold a maximum capacity of 800 people.
    One of the programs that was held there was the Scottish Reformation, or "John Knox vs. Mary, Queen of Scots".  It was held on December 14th, 1909 and was put on by The Young Ladies' Society of the First Presbyterian Church of Warrensburg.

This is a program from the play "John Knox vs. Mary, Queen
of Scots" in 1909.

    One of the plays that was held at the Opera House was Shakespear's "Twelfth Night".  It was shown on Wednesday, February 8th.  An ad for this play proclaimed, "Joseph Shipman presents Miss Charlotte Burnett in Shakespear's 'Twelfth Night'".  The ad went on to tell about the cast of characters, a synopsis of the play, and the executive staff.
    Another play held at the Magnolia was Macbeth.  Actors and actresses were referred to as Miss or the actor's initials.  A synopsis of the play was also given.  For example:
Act I:  The Haunted Heath, Act II:  Macbeth's Castle, etc.  The executive staff was also listed.  This would include acting manager, representatives, stage manager, electrician, carpenter and master proprietors.
    Usually, a program would also include an advertisement for a nationwide company or a local business or just a normal product like Royal Baking Powder.  Some programs were listed in the local mewspaper with other stories.
    Here is and example of an official program:

Magnolia Opera House,
Warrensburg, MO,
Hartman and Marrward, Proprietors.
Al. Morrow, Manager.

R.M. Spencer,                                                             Season 1890-91                                       Circulation 1,000
Tuesday Eve.,
Oct. 28, 1890.
The Brilliant Little Comedian
Supported by
Geo C. Boniface Jr.
Harry W. Rich,
And an
Excellent Company
Tom Craven's Three Act
Drama, entitled,
"Margery Daw".
Re-written and Revised for
the American Stage by
Clay M. Greene, Esq.

    Once, the Reverand W.N. Crozier came to the Opera House after being a missionary in the Orient for eight years.  In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Warrensburg High School held their Commencement at the Opera House.  Admission in 1901 was fifteen cents.  In 1897, there was even a College of Oratory in Warrensburg.  They held their annual closing exercises here.

This is a photograph of the Warrensburg High School
commencement program from 1897.

This is a photograph of the Warrensburg High School
commencement program from 1901.


    The plays, performances, operas and programs were being held downstairs up until 1893 when they were moved upstairs to the second floor.  In 1924, the Magnolia Opera House was turned into the Garrison Overall Factory.  Then it became the Brookfield-Garrison Uniform Factory.  After that, it became the Unitog Business Clothing Company.  Finally, it became a warehouse.
    Now, the Magnolia Opera House stands empty; a reminder of past times when Warrensburg was just a sleepy little Missouri town.



All of our information came from the nice folks at Johnson County Historical Society.