OPERA HOUSE BLOCK


  
  
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24027 (500-502) W. Lockport Street - Opera House Block (1899)

Built after the 1898 fire and recently restored, this is one of the most architecturally significant and prominent buildings in Downtown Plainfield. It is a two-story building occupying two lots built in the Queen Anne Style. The storefronts have some original cast iron columns and an original steel beam with rosettes has been recently rebuilt with wood bulkheads and window frames. The storefront returns several feet on the east elevation. The upper façade is brick with punched window openings with lintels of low brick arches. The original windows have been restored. The corner is marked with a decorative pressed copper turret. The base of the turret has stylized vines and fluted pilasters divide five double hung windows.

 

Above the turret windows are various horizontal bands, ornamental panels, and a ring of garlands. There is also a clock. A conical-shaped roof in corrugated copper caps the turret. The building cornice consists of several widely-spaced banks of brick and there is a rebuilt copper pediment on the front façade that has an "Opera House Block" nameplate. The pediment has ball finials and a sunburst pattern. The brick cornice wraps around the corner and continues along the entire length of the east elevation. The east elevation is all brick with no storefronts but the upper floor window pattern continues.  On the ground floor, there are several window and door openings with round brick arches. While the building had adequate integrity prior to the restoration, the 2011 project by owner C. W. Habiger has authentically restored the building to its original grandeur.

The original Opera House burned in the 1898 fire and was quickly replaced with this building by owner C.W. Marks. The Opera House occupied the upper floor and attracted performances from Chicago. By 1915, the space was adapted to host both live theater and motion pictures. The movie house was operated by Martin Moran and called the Alamo Theater until 1923.  As a promotional stunt, Moran placed a beacon light on the building's flagpole, reportedly to attract visitors from as far away as Aurora and those driving along the Lincoln Highway. By 1927, the movie house was converted into the Blue Goose Dance Hall, operated by Warren "Bunk" Overman. Overman also ran a grill and later a soda fountain on the first floor during the 1930s and 1940s. A popular local band, the Sweets Orchestra, often provided the musical entertainment.

The storefronts were occupied at various times by a department store, Hills Dry Goods & Grocery, Burke's Drug Store, and Alexander’s Variety Store.  Jeremiah Evarts Bank occupied the prime corner storefront from 1899 until it closed in 1913.  Since 1917, the corner hosted a succession of eateries: Keeley's Café and Soda Fountain until 1929, 3 Sisters’ Restaurant, the Esquire Restaurant in the 1940s and '50s, and Jack Hastert’s Clock Tower Restaurant from 1960 to the late 1990s when it became Cafe Orleans.



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