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Picture 00075

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Copy of Picture 00001 This copy is scanned in high resolution

 Berke Opera House Montrose South Dakota

 

From "Montrose Memories"

In February 1922, a disastrous fire in Hegre's Hall over his garage caused $20,000 fire loss in Montrose. A big dance had been held which closed at the usual hour. A couple hours later Lon Wheeler discovered a blaze. The cement block building was erected by H. Berke nearly 20 years before as an opera house, but later occupied by Oscar Hegre as a garage and dance hall. The firemen quickly attached the hose and two streams of water turned on the flames. The fire caught in the floors and roof at an amazingly rapid rate. It was soon seen that the big building was doomed. The firemen then turned their attention to the A.O.U.W. Hall, a one-story frame structure just east of the burning garage and by the heroic work of the firemen was held there.

 

The Masonic and Eastern Star Lodges occupied the A.O.U.W. Hall. The fittings and furniture used by them was removed and taken to the street. This hall was completely wrecked and gutted by the fire, which was intense for about an hour.


In the meantime, it looked as if there was no chance whatever to save the Herald building which was next east of the Hall. By advice of the Fire Chief, Henry Halbritter, and the Captain, John Kruse, the crowd began to remove the printing fixtures, machinery and furniture to the street. Some damage was done, but during the afternoon the machines were set in motion once more and the work of setting type on the Herald was resumed. If the Herald building had gone, the flames likely would have reached the Bryne's Department Store. The South side of Main Street would have been destroyed.

 

Bert Baker's household goods were stored in the upper rooms of the big cement garage and were all consumed. One of the school buses was lost in the flames, also the Franklin car of J.F. Gordon and a number of other cars, which were in the building.

 

There was so much wood used in the construction of this old opera house that it made it the hottest fire we ever saw when it fell into the basement.

 

A few words of praise of our volunteer firemen for their efforts which were most intelligently directed by the officers and efficiently carried out by the members of the company-never saw better work by professionally paid firemen than done by Montrose Volunteer Firemen.

 

This picture is in the possession of Roger Berke and was scanned by Roger Berke July 2002

 

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