In 1898, A.D. Ferris, Frasier Mackay and a Mr. Hanson, entered into a partnership to build a new stone block on Pipestone’s East Olive Street (now Main Street). They owned adjacent frame buildings and planned to have them moved to other parts of town before the construction of a two-story stone building which would reach across their three lots. The project got under way when the buildings were moved and the lots cleared in August of that year.
After the first floor was built, Mr. Mackay left the project and finished his part of the building on his own. Mr. Ferris bought Mr. Hanson out and expanded his vision for the other two-thirds of the building. Mr. Ferris’ new vision included a grand opera house on the second floor with a partial third floor balcony. There was to be a stage across the south end and a horseshoe balcony on the north. In order to fund his civic project, Ferris asked the community to subscribe seats at $5 each. Ferris also took a silent partner at this time, his daughter Mittie Manuel, and fifteen community members put up $100 each in order to seal the public’s interest and support.
The second floor was laid in November and staging and joists raised for the partial third story. As the work season was winding down in other cities, stone masons and workmen arrived in Pipestone to push the Ferris Grand Block to the finish. The stonework was completed by November 17 and Ferris and his investors held a short dedication ceremony in the unfinished building later that month.
The carpentry crew came in in December to work on the interior woodwork. The heating plant was installed and operational by mid-December and plastering of the walls has begun. The local newspaper proclaimed the playhouse finished, the text of the article amending that to “practically finished,” on February 17, 1899.
As the finishing touches were being put on the Opera Hall on the second floor, the rental portions of the building were filling up. One of the two separate retail storefronts on the street level was occupied by the Savings Bank Department Store and Doctors A.H. and W.A. Brown moved into their new office quarters in the second floor, renting the entire suite of four rooms.
Opening day for the Opera Hall, which had been initially planned for January 1, 1899, finally took place on March 8,1899 to a packed house. A traveling theatrical group was hired and several local youths participated as stage hands. The community pegged opening night a great success, (although it was allowed the show itself wasn’t that great!)
Read more on the Construction & Opening of the Ferris Grand Block in the booklet “Another Stone Block” available on our online gift shop. Visit our website at and click on “Gift Shop,” and search under books!