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Quincy Square Museum
East Main Street
Earlville, New York
THE STORY OF THE
EARLVILLE OPERA HOUSE
BY SHERBURNE TOWN HISTORIAN
ROSE L WELLMAN
Book available for purchase at the Quincy Square Museum.
See Contact pages for author information
THE FIRE OF 1886
It was August 21st, a hot, sunny day, with the wind out of the south, when about 11 AM the cry of "FIRE" was
heard from the back of the Weldon House on the southeast corner of the center of the village, where an auction was
being held in the street. The strong wind soon blew the blaze and embers from one wooden building to the next and
with no sufficient means to fight the fire available it was soon completely out of control, with people fleeing for their
very lives. Firemen with their hand engines came from nearby Sherburne, Smyrna and Hamilton, but there was no
source of water except local cisterns and wells. By the time the fire had burned itself out the entire center of the village
was gone. On the east all buildings were gone from the corner to Cushman Avenue; on the northeast corner all the
buildings to Madison Street and up North Main Street to Preston Street, including the Methodist Church were burned
to the ground. On the northwest corner only one outer wall remained of the corner Smith Block, with the all buildings
on the west side of the street destroyed north to across from the church. The west side of South Main Street and the
south side of West Main Street was all that remained of the business district. When it was over, 50 buildings had been
lost and 22 families, consisting of 125 people were homeless.
It was July 24th in 1890, when these early wooden buildings, consisting of the Mr Douglass' newly built store in the
Douglass Block and the Opera House, caught fire and burned to the ground. This was the same area that was fully
devastated only four years before. Also consumed were the Parsons block on the south and the first residence to the
east next to the opera house. Across the street on the north side of Canal Street the Odd Fellows Block and the E C
Niles residence were destroyed also. It was a smaller fire than the one in 1886 but still a great loss to the community.
There are no known photos of these early buildings.
YET ANOTHER FIRE
The village rallied and the southeast corner was rebuilt as a remarkable brick building, which included a drug store,
a bank and several more storefronts and was known as the Douglass Block. But once again the fire fiend was at work
and half of this brick structure, part of the Douglass Block and all of the Opera House, was laid waste on March 31,
1892, only two years hence. By the end of June of that same year Mr Douglass and six other stockholders had put up
enough money to rebuild and reorganize the Earlville Opera House Company again.
The building was quickly rebuilt to the exact plans as the one before by Mr Douglass, Guy H Clark, John Dowell, C C
Gross, W W Calkins, E C Dart and J R Parsons. Each bought shares to total $14,000 and they bought the land on which
the opera house had stood, plus additional land and within six months they took out a $10,000 mortgage.