Kidd Opera House

115 S. Hart Street,
Princeton, IN 47670

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Built by George P. Kidd, this was a large building occupying the center of the block, and sharing its northern wall with the Kidd Hotel, constructed at the same time. The construction date was between 1900 and 1907. The 1900 map shows some small brick storefronts ‘from plans’, and behind them a very strange construction that may have been some sort of outdoor theatre. It’s possible these were then expanded into a much more ambitious structure.

As shown on the 1907 map, the building was three stories, of brick construction. The fly tower at the rear was up to five stories, and topped in tin-clad wood. The fa├žade was divided into two storefronts to the north of the entrance lobby, then office space to the south of it, thus comprising 111 through 117 S. Hart Street. The storefronts were not as deep as the rest of the front section, so that the lobby extended behind part of the southern storefront, leaving an odd empty space probably serving as a light well.

The theatre was quite up to date, and all electric. Capacity is taken from the 1909 Cahn-Hill guide, which gives the orchestra as 481, balcony as 175, and 250 in the gallery. Prices ranged from 25 cents to $1.50.

Despite elaborate (at least for the time) fire protection, consisting of an asbestos curtain, two ‘V’ connections on the stage, three hydrants in the auditorium, 12 St. Louis chemical extinguishers, and 450 feet of 1 ½" hose (‘attended’), the theatre was almost completely destroyed by fire on March 26, 1911. A possible cause was the note on the Sanborn map that the space under the stage was to be the location of the heating plant for both the opera house and hotel. Although the May 27th issue of ‘The Moving Picture News’ claimed it would be rebuilt, this did not happen.

The 1914 map shows that all of the front and part of the balcony must have survived, because an odd crescent shaped remnant of the auditorium is now in use as the hotel’s sample room. A 1919 article on the sale of the ‘Kidd Block’ comprising the hotel (which extended up onto Broadway) and the remains of the theatre and associated commercial space stated that the new owner did not rule out rebuilding the opera house. It is unclear whether that ever happened, but the hotel and everything else were demolished long ago. The theatre was located roughly where the parking lot behind the bank is, as it was separated from the still extant house by what is now a gravel drive.

Contributed by Seth Gaines
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