Then and Now: 118-122 North Main Street, Fairfield

January 21, 2011

118-122 North Main Street, Fairfield, IA.

Above: Standing proudly at Main and Briggs Streets’ southwest corner in 1909 was Fairfield’s Grand Opera House, built in 1890 by J. E. Roth, J. S. Richardson, J. S. McKemey, and E. A. Howard. Ornately designed by Burlington architect Charles A. Dunham, it was Fairfield’s second theater, built seven years after the Odd Fellows had purchased Semon’s old opera house at 50-52 W. Burlington and converted it into their lodge. Among the Grand Opera building’s other tenants in 1909 were Jeff Griffith and Henry Pierson’s plumbing company at 118 North Main Street (shown at left, above), Joe Buckley’s cigar store, and Walt Whitman’s barber shop. Under its final owner Louis Thoma, the Grand Opera House was already transitioning from acting companies to silent films when an electrical fire destroyed it on May 18, 1909. Select here for a brief biography of Louis Thoma. The following year saw the birth of Fairfield’s third theater: the Orpheum, now known as The Co-Ed, at 119-123 W. Broadway.

Below: Rebuilt in 1914 by Charles L. Cox, the new building at 118-122 N. Main hosted the Fairfield Motor Co., the Brown Motor Co., and Easton Motor Sales in succession through the 1920s, followed by the Reliable Department Store and Leach Hatcheries in the 1930s, Benteco Supermarket in the 1940s, Benner Food Store and Brainard Pontiac in the 1950s, Wulff’s Furniture in the 1960s, Gibson’s Discount Center department store and the Big ‘o’ Factory Outlet in the early 1970s, and the Tribune Printing Co. from 1980 to the present.


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