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Iowa History Daily: September 12 - The Wieting Theater Debuts

Iowa History Daily: On September 12, 1912, the curtain went up for the first time at Toledo’s Wieting Theater. An exceptional Iowa comeback story, the theater closed in 1958 only to find new life thanks to the Wieting Theater Guild.

One of three opera houses built by Ella W. Wieting in honor of her late-husband, the 50’ x 100’ brick structure featured an auditorium, balcony, stage, dressing rooms, and an orchestra pit. When the curtain rose for the first time at 8:00 p.m. on September 12, 1912, Wieting welcomed a capacity crowd of 650 who had shelled out as much as $2.50 per ticket to take in a performance of Sheehan English Opera Company’s presentation of “Il Trovatore.”

An early adopter of showing films, the theater employed Art Ludwig to operate equipment as early as 1913. Ludwig’s wife played piano accompaniment to silent films. While other local theaters provided competition, the Wieting continued to adapt. However, as the rise of television led to declines in attendance during the 1950s the theater closed.

Aided by a trust fund left by Ella Wieting, a group of local women came together during the spring of 1960 to start a project aimed at revitalizing the theater. The theater reopened to a full house on Sept. 16, 1960, including many who had attended the opening 48 years before. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, the theater continues to welcome visitors today. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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