The building that would eventually become the Opera House was originally built by a Mr. Hoagland in 1840 and operated as a general store until he went into the liquor business and opened a distillery.
In 1852 Sidney Chaffee purchased the distillery business and the two story building, then began expanding it upward and westward. The second and third floors were constructed to contain an Opera House, then named Chaffee’s Hall. At one point Chaffee’s liquor company was caught up in a scandal for not paying taxes.
In the 1860s, Chaffee moved to Nebraska, and later had to return to Tippecanoe on business. In order to get to the train station, he had to cross the Missouri River, which was frozen over at the time. Unfortunately, he took the wrong path across the ice and he drowned.
The Opera House presented operas, concerts, recitals, traveling medicine and minstrel shows, melodramas, and plays (one of which included an actual live horse that had to be led upstairs.) The Opera House held its last show in 1913. The cast of the final performance wrote the following on wall: “Professor Richton’s Wonder Show, here one week to big biz as usual.”
The building has served many purposes over the years.
The ground floor spaces have been used for drug stores, clothing stores, grocery stores, variety stores, general stores, paint and wallpaper stores, picture shows, duck-pins (bowling), barber shops, plumbers, card rooms, offices, beauty shops, and a delicatessen.