By: Nicole Zempel
"Tell me about this building!" Shamefully the first words that slipped out of my mouth before offering a proper greeting.
Yet I figure this must be common place at the Goss Opera Hall though, as all formalities aside - I am asked if I'd like to have a look around.
This building is unlike any I've ever seen. The sheer enormity of the structure beckons to be appreciated.
All I know is that I was immediately drawn to this building. A visit to the Goss Opera Hall website will tell you that this three-story structure has 125 feet of frontage on Maple Street and 65 Feet
on Kemp Avenue.
The Maple side is divided into four ground floor stores and the Kemp side into three store fronts.
The second floor and third floor house the opera house and also office spaces facing outside.
The "feel" of the building reminds me of swimming in the ocean. It's beautiful and inviting - and also hard to comprehend the depth and all the unseen that surly surrounds you. It's exhilarating.
Built by a businessman named Charles Goss, his original storefront burned down in 1888. By 1889 Goss realized his dream of building and creating a grand space for community celebration and entertainment.
At the time the Goss Opera Hall was one of three in the city of Watertown - today, it is one of only two remaining Opera Halls in the entire state of South Dakota. And of this, it is the largest - the Opera Hall alone is able to seat 1,500 people - but manages to maintain and encourage intimacy.
Yet, as happens with many grand old things - times of transition and change occur. For a number of years this building sat empty - during this time the younger generations were never introduced to this gem - which lay hidden behind closed doors for decades.
Today, the Goss is home to numerous events, live music, Common Ground Coffee House, Charley's Restaurant, and multiple art galleries. There is a rich history that today lives through stories as well as several items found throughout the building during renovation.
On shelves that span the length of a large brick wall one notices the skeletal remains of an old banjo as well as many other trinkets. On the second level a showcase sits in a large gallery space - holding even more of the buildings rich past.
One item in particular was pointed out to me - sitting next to a pair of ornate silver opera hall binoculars - was someone's long lost leather wallet with identification still in tact. Which was, amazingly, identified decades later by the one hundred year old daughter of the wallets rightful owner!
Touching the original, peeling, peach and silver colored wallpaper in a small room that once served as living quarters and now serves as a house photographers studio - my kind "tour guide" said what I was thinking, "If only these walls could talk - eh?"
Walking up to the third level balcony and box seating area - I was taken aback by the rustic, raw old wood - reminiscent of old Westerns. The entire building is a trip, but that third level - it is nothing short of a time warp into the nineteenth century!
There was just one thing that shocked me even more than the initial jaw dropping experience of walking into this mammoth beauty. I was surprised to learn that, even today, some town folks remain unaware of the existence of what is sure to be one of Watertown's greatest treasurers and one of South Dakota's only two remaining Opera Halls.