Falls City Opera House

Spokane's First Live Theater

The rude frontier hamlet of Spokane experienced its first taste of the nightlife in 1887 when the Falls City Opera house opened at 706 West Main Street. Spokane's "first and only theater" was open to all. Its crowds were a mixture of upper-class citizens in their evening attire and lower class citizens looking for a night out. At the time, the Opera House served as the cultural epicenter of the little city by the falls.

D.H. Dwight constructed the building making it not only Spokane's first theater but the city's first building over three stories tall. Bonne's grocery occupied the first floor while the upper floors became the theater. The Opera House could comfortably contain 800 people and, in at least one production, a live horse.

Notable plays and operas included The Bohemian Girl starring Emma Abbot, The Poor Relation, Peaceful Valley, and early production of Ben Hur. Even Shakespearean actors made their way to Spokane with a remake of The Chimes of Normandy, which "filled the theater with its operatic strains."

The drama was short-lived, however. In 1889, just two years after opening its doors, the great fire claimed the building along with an estimated 300 other buildings in the area. The manager of the opera house, Harry Hayward, was determined to recover what he had lost. With the city still smoldering, Hayward paired up with local entrepreneurs A.M Cannon and J.J. Browne to become the first manager of the Auditorium Theater, which was the largest of its kind in the country. For this small town, despite the devastating fire, "the joints" were still "jumping" and the "theaters filled."



706 West Main Street ~ Today, the site resembles nothing of its history. Standing in its place is Jos.A Bank and T Mobile.