The Wilson Opera House and Opera House Museum, along with Dr. Whitmer’s Clinic and the Johnson shop, were destroyed by fire in the early hours of Friday, November 6, 2009. Along with the buildings that were destroyed, the Wilson American Legion building was severely damaged.
Donations are being accepted at the Wilson State Bank – Opera House Fire Fund- Stabilization and Cleanup.
Watch restoration progress on Facebook – www.facebook.com/pages/Czech-Opera-House-of-Wilson-KS/205689848437
Built in 1901, the Wilson Czech Opera House stands in the heart of Wilson. It formerly served as a social hall for the community, and is complete with dining area, ballroom, and stage. A gymnasium was later added to support SOKOL Lodge Gymnastics. The Czech Opera House is now used as the Meeting Hall for the Czech Lodge where the lodge hangings bedeck the walls. A handful of Wilson inhabitants have created a “House of Memories” Museum, located in the basement and gymnasium of the Opera House, which honors early American settlers and Wilson’s heritage and history. The upstairs ballroom and stage plays host for festivals, magic shows, queen pageants, junior-senior proms, wedding celebrations, dances, Christmas programs and dinner theaters. The gymnasium and dining area are used to serve authentic Czech meals for festivals and tours.
Czech “House of Memories” Museum
In 1969 Governor John Carlin dedicated the “House of Memories” during a festival. This is a building that was remodeled into a museum used to house memorabilia from the early day “Wilson”. Wilson in 1967 was granted the Charter to be called “The Czech Capital of Kansas” and since the museum was already started in the Czech Opera House, a restoration committee increased the museum from one to five rooms.
Not only are Czech items on display, but also brought to life are memories of the early day settlers, of other nationalities, German, French, English, Dutch, Italian and others. As you enter the museum, there usually is some type of polka or lively music softly playing. There on the walls begins a history of old pictures, depicting the beginning of Wilson. Pictures of the first businesses, stagecoach station, railroad station, grocery stores, dry goods, hotels, banks, doctor?s offices, hardware and implement stores, livery stables, flour mills, grainery, and water towers. The ?side-sod-buster? plow that broke the ground to bring the first railroad into Kansas in 1865 is on display along with hand carved items of native stone, pencil holders, name plates, souvenirs from the Czech Republic, hand painted eggs, handmade dolls and toys, and more. There is a beautiful mannequin to greet your eyes that is suited with an authentic “Kroji” costume, and a Lovely lady with parasol made of lovely Bobbin Lace, Palickovani.
The House of Memories is just that. It helps us to educate, cultivate the minds, teach of the heritage that is ours in our great land, and inform our visitors from foreign lands as well as others about America, by giving us items to help remember our history. It was opened to preserve those things that are dear and near to our lives. The staff of the House of Memories are one hundred percent volunteers and it is open to the public by appointment tours and walk-ins, to groups, clubs, or whoever else stumbles in. All are welcome and admission is by donation. Czech meals can be served by reservation for 25 or more people, for a nominal fee.
The money raised by activities and tours in the Opera House is for the restoration and preservation of the building only. The “House of Memories” museum tells the story of Wilson from its first settlers to the present day. Being the Czech capital of Kansas, this is our focal point of Wilson. We educate, inform, share, and hope each and everyone that has passed through our rooms will go away with a smile and a desire to come again. rn