AKA: Grand Opera House, San Francisco, CA; Old Grand, San Francisco, CA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - opera houses; built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Bugbee, S.C., and Son, Architects (firm); Charles Lewis Bugbee (architect); Samuel Charles Bugbee (architect)

Dates: constructed 1875-1876, demolished 1906

Mission Street
South of Market, San Francisco, CA 94105

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North side of Mission Street between 3rd and 4th Streets.

Building History

This facility opened on 01/17/1876 on Mission Street's north side, between 3rd and 4th Streets. By 08/1876, building investors, including M.J. McDonald and Louis Vesaria, filed separate suits against The Opera House and Art Building Association totaling $20,358.36, each due payments on promissory notes. Theatre manager Frederick W. Bert, also sued The Opera House and Art Building Association, for multiple fees owed to him; the association had earlier sued him for $9,000 in back rent. Bert contended that the opera house was not constructed or completed "as a first-class theatre, according to the terms of the lease dated March 31st, 1875." Because the theatre was not complete, Bert contended that he had to put $12,088.54 of his own money into finishing it, and, because the building was not done on time, deprived him of $12,993 of potential revenue. He claimed total damages and fees of $38,591. (See "Two Suits Brought Against the Corporation--F.W. Bert's Answer in His Suit," Daily Alta California, vol. 28, no. 9627, 08/15/1876, p. 1.) Multiple legal feuds started Wade's Opera House off on bad footing. By 1880, it was known as the "Grand Opera House."

Building Notes

The Daily Alta California newspaper reported on a seat auction that preceded opening night in 1876: "In accordance with the announcement, the sale of seats and boxes for the opening night of Wade's Opera House took place last evening in the auditorium of the theatre. Lighted up, the interior presented a brilliant and striking appearance, and revealed to the very large number of persons who were present a handsome, commodious and well appointed temple of drama. The blue upholstery of the chairs corresponds with the colors chosen for ornamenting the fronts of the several circles. Among the audience were the most prominent of our merchants, brokers, capitalists and private citizens. The premiums bid were large, and revealed the great interest that was taken in the opening of the new theatre. The choice and highest priced one was Box H, of the middle row, left hand, on the left side of the stage, which was sold to A. Borel at $140, the price of proscenium box, each $25, being added, making $165." (See "Wade's Opera House The Sale of Boxes and Seats at Auction Last Evening," Daily Alta California, vol. 28, no. 9413, 01/13/1876, p. 1.) Swiss-born Antoine Borel (1840-1915), the Swiss Vice Consul to Northern CA and Nevada, the co-founder of San Francisco's Borel Private Bank & Trust Company and an investor in several local water, power and transportation companies. In mid-08/1876, the theatre staged a production of Charles Lecocq's (1832-1918) opéra bouffe Giroflé-Girofla (1874), an English version of which was first staged the following year. In its first year, the theatre offered a number of French-inspired operas and operettas.


A small bomb exploded in the opera house in 1887.


The Grand Opera House had its roof collapse in the Great San Francisco Earthquake at 5:00 a.m., 04/18/1906; this was the day following an evening performance of Carmen that included Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921) and the Conried Metropolitan Opera Company of New York. Its rubble was cleared and the site purchased by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, where it built the current Saint Patrick's Church.

PCAD id: 9197