Saturday, January 5, 2013

An Opera and a Beer in Provo

There has been a lot of talk recently in Utah news about the new performing arts center that will soon be coming to Salt Lake City and even the possible relocation of the Hale Center Theatre from West Valley City to Sandy.  With all of the talk about performing arts, it is interesting to note that Provo used to have one of the premier Opera Houses along the Wasatch Front.  The Provo Opera House was located about 50 North 100 West.

Provo: the garden city of Utah: its resources and attractions stated about the opera house, "Perhaps no other city of double its population in the United Sftates has so fine a building of amusement as Provo.  The Provo Opera House has a seating capacity of 900, and cost over $30,000.  Like all other public institutions in Provo, everything is new and contains all the modern advantages in the line for which it was erected.  It may be unnecessary to state that a city with such a building has a good record among traveling theatrical companies for the number of its amusement-loving inhabitants."

The best information that I could find on the Opera House was from the BYU website where the picture was originally published.  The site states, "Although plays, debates, and lectures were held in College Hall, the old Opera House in downtown Provo (constructed in 1888 on First West between Center Street and First North) was the scene of many large-scale BYU productions, such as operas and major drama, before 1920.  Later the seats were removed and the building was used for dances and boxing and wrestling matches.  According to Professor J. Homer Wakefield, who took this photograph, it was the site of Jack Dempsey's boxing debut.  In the 1920s it was converted to a National Guard armory, and it was razed in the 1950s."

Who can enjoy a good night at the opera without a large drink of beer?  Well, for those lucky opera goers, the Palace Saloon was located directly across the street.  There is a complete lack of information about the Palace Saloon on the internet.  In fact, when googling "Palace Saloon Provo," only six results were provided, five of which were photographs from photo databases.  The Palace Saloon was located on the west side of 100 West between Center and 100 North.  What surprised me even more than the lack of information on the internet is that the building is still standing, just to the south of where Sammy's is located.

 Courtesy of Brigham Young University, Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collection

Sorry the above picture is such poor quality; I promise that it isn't from the 1970's.  For some reason, I didn't take a picture of the building face on and had to use the picture from Googlemaps.  Below is a better picture of what the building currently looks like.

One of the pictures that I came across while researching the Palace Saloon was a great flicker account in which old historic buildings are combined with modern pictures of the same building.  Here is the picture I found.  If you want to look at some more buildings in downtown Provo, check out chisbateman's photostream.

LOST IN HISTORY: Time for the second installment of Lost In History, an interactive part that I am going to include and the conclusion of the posts to help the blog be more interactive.  Once again, if you have any comments or ideas for rewards or giveaways that could be given to the first person who responds, let me know.  For todays Lost In History, I thought that the lack of information about the Palace Saloon was unfortunate.  However, it reminded me of perhaps the biggest connection that Provo has to saloons.  Provo's most notable resident around the turn of the 19th century was an individual who was famous for having the only "saloon-free and prostitute free" mining camp in the US.  Who was he and what connection did he have to Provo?  To help you out, he did built several houses around Provo which have been featured in previous posts, and as an additional hint, his name is on the most notable historical business building in Provo.


  1. Not fair. If I type in as an Internet search "saloon-free and prostite free" minning camp in the U.S., the web leads me to your blog. Now how am I going to find out the answer?

  2. The other clue was that he built several houses in Provo. I talked about him in several posts about houses in Provo. If you don't want to go through each post, you can always look at the map of different posts and search through the ones about houses in Provo. As an additional hint, his houses were on Center Street

  3. It was Jesse Knight who had the mine. He was also a philanthropist who gave much of his money to BYU and the LDS church.

    I have been thinking of what you could give to the winner of your questions. I struggle to think of something what would not cost much that would engage your readers. Perhaps a high resolution picture of some of the buildings you are highlighting? Dont know for sure but will keep trying to think of something