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As It Was: Fire Destroys Landmark Ashland Opera House

Just before dawn in August 1912, Charlie Rose smelled smoke and saw flames licking out of the second-floor rear windows of Ashland’s Ganiard Opera Building. Running to a call box, he signaled an emergency at Main and Pioneer Streets.

Firefighters arrived in 15 minutes but as a crowd gathered to watch, the Ganiard’s peaked tower, arched masonry windows, and tile roof collapsed in a cloud of dust and a cacophony of timber and brick. Within five hours, the fire left only blackened walls. The city condemned its top two floors and ordered them removed. The Ganiard was rebuilt, but with a reconfigured floorplan, a stuccoed exterior, and missing its most iconic details.

For 23 years, the Ganiard had stood as a city landmark, its 800-seat opera house featuring vaudeville shows, musicals, school commencements, and social events. People also came to shop at the grocery store on its street level, and for the motion picture theater, billiard parlor, candy store, and a doctor’s office above.

Today, retail stores occupy the building, but its unusual corner entryway, locally quarried sandstone columns, and Ganiard Opera House sign remain.

Sources: "Ganiard Opera House Destroyed." Ashland Tidings, 8 Aug. 1912, p. 1; "Fire Destroys Landmark: Ganiard Opera House Block at Ashland Gutted by Fire." Oregonian, 7 Aug. 1912, p. 5; Curler, Dawna. "Red Flannel and Flame." Table Rock Sentinel, May 1989, pp. 2-11, www.sohs.org/sites/default/files/magazines/1989-0506.pdf;l"Ashland Downtown Historic District, ID #15.0 Survey #266 Ganiard Opera Hse, Page 20." National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 5 May 2000, npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/00036090-5184-49bf-9e86-e92eb0d5efa4; Hoffman, Nancy. “Ganiard Building Offers Ashland Railroad District Rooms,” AIW, 18 Nov 2011. NOTE: this wasn’t the Ganiard Opera House, it was the Peerless Rooms.

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Lynne Hasselman has a passion for storytelling and a heart for history. As a freelance historical writer for the Oregonian, she’s drawn to the experiences of ordinary people living in extraordinary times.