The stage for drama was set when gold fever hit Cripple Creek in 1890. A gold rush of major proportions was underway at the turn of the 20th century and a boomtown atmosphere called for entertainment galore.
Tired, thirsty and hungry, miners preferred the society of the gambling halls and saloons that lined the streets of the mining district. Madams, dance hall girls and medicine shows were the preferred entertainment of the less cultured, working element. Booze, gambling and debauchery prevailed.
But there was also a more sophisticated lot who still yearned for the niceties of a society that they had left behind. Moving West, where social dress and fine dining was as scarce as running water, was quite a hardship for the socially inclined.
Early on, Cripple Creek and Victor both sported grand opera houses, providing much needed access to theatre, music and art. Such notable acts as Texas Guinan, Lily Langtree and Groucho Marx all performed in early Cripple Creek at one time or another.
Located on Meyer’s Avenue in the heart of the red light district, The Grande Opera House produced some of the most elegant, refined and tasteful entertainment in the whole of the district. Its ruins remind today’s visitors of the gold days gone by when going to the opera was a typical mining camp social event. There was also the Lyric Opera House where in 1913, the lowest of miners and highest of society rubbed elbows to watch George Coplen fight the famed Jack Dempsey.
Another historical venue that began in the heyday of the gold rush still houses live entertainment today, in the form of live melodrama and professional theater. The "Butte Concert and Beer Hall" premiered in 1896, when proprietors Halbekann & Hertz featured nightly entertainment with a Ladies' Vienna Orchestra. Some time later the theater re-premiered as the Butte Opera House under the management of D.R. McArthur. Within two years, numerous clubs and lodges were sponsoring parties and benefits at the Butte on a regular basis.
The opera house experienced limited success, and over the next several years underwent a series of makeovers; first it was transformed into the Butte Hall Dancing Academy, followed by The Watt Brothers Furniture Company, back to a theatre (this time under the name Teller Hall,) onto a skating rink, a secondhand store, a weapons cache (the space was then called The Armory,) an auto garage, home of the Cripple Creek Auto Company, and eventually fell into disuse, mainly a storage facility for the fire department located below.