During a cold weekend in January 1898, the California Concert Company got off the train at the Scammon, KS depot and made their way a few blocks to Main St. For the next two days the company utilized all their talents on the Main street corners to sell their miracle concoction for $1 a bottle. Among the crew working the crowd and taking money was Harry & Bess Houdini.
In my ongoing research of Houdini’s time in Kansas during the winter of 1897-1898 my wife and I recently decided to explore Scammon, KS. At the end of the 19th century, Scammon was a bustling mining town with a Main St offering businesses of all kinds, including an opera house.
Unfortunately, due to time, economics, and weather almost all the original opera house structures are gone that Harry & Bess and the rest of the California Concert Company performed at, except for a precious few.
One such diamond in the rough was one we discovered this past weekend unexpectedly in Scammon. With the use of old fire insurance maps and original photos, we were amazed to have discovered what appears to be the original building that housed the opera house in 1898!
Many small-town opera houses were located on the 2nd or 3rd floor with traditional businesses being operated on the ground floor. Access to the opera house was in many cases via stairs at the back of the building. The Scammon opera house was no different.
Upon discovery of the Scammon location, we found a building in desperate need of care. Luckily the building was recently sold, and the current owner plans on preserving and improving the building. He did tell us that the stars going to the 2nd floor were taken down long ago, leaving the 2nd floor inaccessible.
I was able to get one photo through an open window on the 2nd floor, showing a small back room that opened into the larger room, the stage! If only walls could talk….
More updates coming soon!