Opera House History
By Pacific correspondent Ned Reed, who toured the building with part-owner Mrs. Virginia Dailey.
For most of the 20th century, the Pacific “Opera House” has dominated the city’s skyline as the biggest and most impressive building. The exquisite red brick land-mark built ostensibly for Pacific’s retail, cultural and social activities still stands solemnly with its third story ball-room crying out for the fun and laughter of the theater and family times gone by.
In 1902, James J. Dailey and Lawrence P McHugh partnered to start a General Merchandise business and that became known as McHugh and Dailey. Their first store was located in the Gray Summit area. The McHugh and Dailey business relationship prospered and a second store was opened in Pacific in 1903. This enterprise was located on the South side of town. The enterprise rapidly expanded and very soon McHugh and Dailey were again making plans for expansion of their business.
Soon McHugh and Dailey were looking for a new location. This time they planned to build for any future expansion. They envisioned a building which would be larger than any store in the entire area. They also planned to stock the store with the most complete line of merchandise available in the countryside. They went to the St. Louis area for the aid of an architect. The plans were drawn and completed, and the construction began. Naturally the building project generated a great deal of excitement, for in its time, it was the largest building ever constructed in Pacific. Even today, because of its size it is a well known area landmark. The large red brick structure is three and one-half stories high. There were eleven railroad carloads of brick used in the construction of the outside walls of the building: The building is an excellent example of the mercantile architure of its day.
During this time, the St. Louis area had just experienced the excitement of a World’s Fair. When the excitement was over, a large portion of the buildings used for the fair were no longer needed, so they were sold, sometimes as whole buildings. Others were merely dismantled and sold as surplus building material. McHugh and Dailey, being very enterprising individuals, seized this excellent opportunity to obtain some of the lumber needed for the construction of their building being built in Pacific. All of the tin ceiling material used in the building also came from this source. Tin ceilings, with elaborate pressed scroll design were very popular and used extensively in commercial buildings during this era.
In 1910, a two story addition was built on to the back of the building. The first floor of the large brick structure housed the McHugh and Dailey Ernporium (in later years this was changed to McHugh and Dailey Mercantile, Co.) The second floor was divided into living quarters and used as the residence of the McHugh and Dailey families. As both were large families with six children in the McHugh family, and nine children in the Dailey family, most of the space on the second floor was needed as residential area.
The third floor of the building was the town opera house. This was a large open assembly hall. A large stage with twin dressing rooms, one each side, was located at the back of the building. The old stage curtain, which now hangs on the back wall of the Opera House, is also a complete, fascinating display of advertisements of business places located in Pacific during that era. This interesting piece of commercial art work was painted by Edward Strauman, one of the towns businessmen of that time. There was also a refreshment area built near the front of the Opera House. Since the Opera House had solid hardwood flooring it was first used as a roller rink and for many years the Opera House was used for graduations since the local schools did not have auditoriums.
Credit for information: Mr. and Mrs. Joe Dailey, their friends and relatives, and family records – Pacific.