O'Fallon Progress

O’Fallon ‘opera house’ opened in 1877

Brian Keller is the O’Fallon Historical Society president.
Brian Keller is the O’Fallon Historical Society president. rkirsch@bnd.com

When O’Fallon was very young, the only assembly hall in town was on the second floor of what is now Gia’s Pizza at 102 W. State. The entrance was through the first-floor dining room and up a narrow stairway. A bit of a fire trap, but that’s where dances, meetings and other events were held.

In the 1870s, John “Jack” Shinton ran a saloon out of the building. He decided to make the hall more useful by enlarging it and adding a 10 by 12 foot stage. To improve access, he built a ticket office and stairway at the southeast corner so that patrons could enter the second floor through the door above the south entrance via the porch.

The new “opera house” attracted traveling theatrical troupes who played there from time to time. One memorable stint was in the fall of 1877 when J.A. Simon’s Star Comedy Company visited town for a one-week engagement. (To be continued next week.)

75 years ago Feb. 4, 1943

Pupils of the O’Fallon Township High School were advised by the Treasury Department last Friday that since 90 percent or more of them had become systematic purchasers of war stamps and bonds they were eligible to fly the special Minute Man flag. The flag is on its way now. Pupils of District 92, O’Fallon City Schools, who recently qualified, received their flag Monday and had a special flag raising ceremony on the school grounds in the afternoon.

50 years ago Feb. 1, 1968

Cost of an overpass between the north and south ends of O’Fallon may total $600,000 according to D.H. Murphy, county superintendent of highways who made a preliminary survey into the possibility of such a structure. The overpass has been discussed because of the difficulties caused by long trains blocking the crossings. The most economical site would be just west of the American Cryogenics Co. plant on the east edge of town. Another suggestion was for a subway on Oak Street.