October 12, 1895: Temple Opera House Goes Up in Flames

On this day in Duluth in 1895, the Temple Opera House at 12 North Second Avenue East was destroyed by fire. The fire was first discovered at 12:15 a.m. and the Duluth News Tribune described it dramatically: “It burned as if it were made of straw…. The interior of the building was like a hell. The flames were a perfect cyclone. They shot nearly 200 feet in the air.” Along with the opera house’s stage and other facilities, the fire destroyed the Mason’s Scottish Rite as well as kitchens and several dining rooms used by the Masons. A fire wall saved the adjoining Temple Opera Block. The ruins of the opera house were left standing for nearly ten years before they were reconstructed as a rollerskating rink designed by John J. Wangenstein. The Temple Rink had a skating surface 140-feet long and 70-feet wide and its promoters claimed it could hold 700 skaters and 500 spectators. In 1909 Guilford Hartley purchased the Temple Opera Block and Temple Rink. He had the rink demolished and built the Orpheum Theatre on the site in 1910. The exterior of the Orpheum remains with us, but its interior was transformed into the NorShor theatre in 1940. Read more about the Temple Opera House here.

This sketch of the Temple Opera House engulfed in flames appeared in the Duluth News Tribune in October, 1895. (Image: Zenith City Press)