Metropolitan Opera House (Grand Forks, North Dakota)
James J. Hill in 1875. His donating land to the city allowed for the construction of the Metropolitan Opera House
Metropolitan Opera House as seen today as home of high-end lofts and businesses
Metropolitan Opera House in 1907
Metropolitan Opera House during the 1997 Red River flood
Metropolitan Opera House in 1897. Photo courtesy of the North Dakota State University Institute of Regional Studies.
Backstory and Context
The Metropolitan Opera House was built in 1890 by the Grand Forks Opera Company on land donated by James J. Hill of the Great Northern Railway at a cost of $91,000. Though the term "Metropolitan" may have been an overstatement for a community that, at the time, had just 5,000 citizens, those behind construction of the building were looking to the city's future growth. The building required two mortgages to complete and struggled to stay in the Black after opening. Nonetheless, it was able to provide citizens 50 years of opera and theatre.
By the 1940s, opera had fallen in popularity due to new forms of entertainment such as film. The Met was no exception and the curtain fell for the last time. Over the next 50 years, the building was home to a variety of businesses. During this period, the 1890s interior was gutted and replaced by bars and bowling alleys.
Badly damaged during the 1997 Red River Flood, the building sat empty for several years and came close to meeting the wrecking ball. However, the former opera house was saved by the Historic Preservation Commission. The exterior has since been restored to its 1890s appearance, while the interior has been converted to high-end apartments with space for businesses on the first floor. In 2015, Rhombus Guys Brewing Company opened on the first floor.
The building was designed by prominent Minneapolis architect Warren B. Dunnell in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. It went through an extensive renovation/restoration by JLG Architects in 2005 and 2006.
- Grand Forks Herald article, April 17, 2003
- Malone, Michael P., James J. Hill: Empire Builder of the Northwest Norman, OK.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996