Alliance, OH Marchand's Opera House Collapse, Jun 1886


The Alliance, O., Opera House A Complete Wreck

Alliance, O., June 2. – At 4:10 this afternoon there was heard a terrible cracking, crashing, and rumbling noise, and a single brick was seen to fall from the southeast corner of the second story of Marchand’s Opera House, which was a four-story brick block, eighty feet square, located at the corner of Main and Fifth streets, two squares from the depot. The entire imposing, massive structure immediately fell in a confused mass of dusty ruins. Three of the four store rooms on the first floor were occupied by business firms and the fourth room was to be occupied in a few days. In the store rooms were about a dozen people, all of whom escaped, as also did several occupants of room in the second story. Mr. Marchand, the business manager of the block, was sitting in his office on the 2nd floor when he noticed the plastering cracking. He rushed frantically out and down the front stairway, screaming for everybody to run as the house was falling. Harvey Laughlin, attorney, office also on the 2nd floor, hearing the confusion, ran for the side stairway, and rushed down while bricks and mortar fell thick all about him, he being the last to leave the building. The third floor was the opera house, and the fourth floor an attic and storage place. No lives were lost.

Several new coaches standing on the Fort Wayne track in the rear of the building were crushed by the falling wall; while the east wall in falling caught a two-story frame adjacent and crushed it; also damaging the next house east.

The roar of the falling building was heard a mile away. The noise and the alarm of the fire bell bro’t [sic] many people from the surrounding country.

The west wall still stands to the 2nd story, and thus to a great extent protected two of the business rooms below. Everything else was entirely destroyed, including the fine scenery, etc., of the opera house.


The building was erected in 1868 at a cost of $75,000. During the erection a heavy rain storm materially affected the walls, but they were fixed as best they could and the work completed. Architects and builders have often pronounced it safe, while others did not consider it so. Within a few weeks the east wall began to sag out and the doors of the building closed with difficulty. Only yesterday morning J. T. Weybrecht, builder and contractor, examined the house and informed Mr. Marchand that repairs would be necessary to make it safe. Those repairs were to have begun tomorrow.


On Tuesday evening the Board of Education decided to have the annual commencement exercises of the city schools in the opera hall on June 25th, notwithstanding the protests of the parents of the graduating class. Had the building stood up until that day, and the proposed repair not been equal to the weight of humanity that would then have assembled there, what a heart-rending tragedy might have occurred. It makes one shudder to think of it.

The Ohio Democrat, New Philadelphia, OH 10 June 1886