209 N. Locust Street,
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For more than 135 years, Bartenbach’s was a major force in downtown Grand Island. First known as Bartenbach’s paint store and a long-running gallery operating from the 1880’s to 2018, Locust Street was also home to Bartenbach’s Opera House. The building was built in 1882 with the Opera House launching on August 27, 1883 with a live Gilbert and Sullivan opera with other curated acts.
The Bartenbach Opera House hosted such notables as Sarah Bernhardt, Al Jolson, John Philip Sousa, and Blind Boone. On January 26, 1899, the Opera House presented motion pictures for the first time with Optoscope films. Like many opera houses of the era, full-time motion picture theatres decimated audience sizes. And the Bartenbach would adapt becoming the Bartenbach Theatre which would eventually in the 1920’s show movies primarily although still hosting live events.
The Bartenbach Theatre never equipped for sound and, when new theatres were opened in 1927 including the Capitol Theatre and the Island Theatre, the Bartenbach Theatre’s viability was all but over. The last six years of its existence were largely boxing matches through 1934. For five years the opera house sat empty and accumulating a tax bill. In 1939, the space was converted to 14 offices.
The Bartenbach business continued all the way to 2018. However, it closed ending a continuous chain of 138 years in downtown Grand Island. The building and its 1882 date with Bartenbach name was still in full display in the 2020’s.
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