While most of the museum’s blog posts for Historic Preservation Month focus on buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, not all historic structures are on the list. One example is the Cady Building built in 1893 and named after the Nebraska man who designed it. This impressive three-story building took up a city block on Main Street. It was easily the largest and grandest building in Sheridan for years. Newspapers in Sheridan lauded it as the best building in Northern Wyoming, and locals were immensely proud that Sheridan had such a building.

Cady Opera House by Elsa Spear Byron. Date Unknown. Object Number 2004.56.002. Memory Book Collection.

The first floor was occupied by businesses like a grocery store, post office, temporary county courthouse, and more. Offices and apartments filled the second floor. The third floor was the Cady Opera House. Theos you who have driven or walked by the Cady Building might be wondering if you had failed to notice a third floor of the building. You didn’t. The building currently has only two stories because of a common problem and perpetual danger around the turn of the 20th century: fire.

Cady Opera House Program. Date Unknown. Object Number 2010.008.007. Ridley Collection.

In 1906 the building was owned by a group of investors called the Union Syndicate, which leased out space to various businesses and tenants. The first floor was occupied by James J. O’Marr and Sons, and the opera house was leased to H.W. Tyler. Traveling performance groups performed at the Cady Opera House on a regular basis. October 7, 1906 the Arlington Comedians had just come to town late that night and unloaded all their equipment onto the stage area. At three in the morning a fire was discovered behind the curtains and scenery on stage. While the fire department arrived on the scene promptly, the fire had been burning for a while before it was discovered. By the time they got the fire out the roof had collapsed, the second and third floors were gutted, there was a foot of standing water from the fire hoses on the second floor, and extensive water damage to the first floor.

Cady Opera House After the Fire by T.A. Morris. 1906. Object Number 2004.56.002. Memory Book Collection.

The cause of the fire was never fully determined, but the fire department believed it might have been caused by a faulty wire near the third floor switchboard. The theater business was a total loss, but the Arlington Comedians managed to get all their equipment out. Some of the residents on the second floor weren’t so lucky. Some people got their belongings out of their apartments and businesses, but many lost everything. Mrs. Topping and her daughter Clara lost $400 worth of belongings, which doesn’t seem like much until you calculate that as more than $10,000 today. They lost everything. The grocery store on the first floor had $4,000 in water damage, which adds up to $105,000 today. The owner had insurance that covered most of the lost inventory.

The Union Syndicate also had insurance to cover the $20,000 (over $500,000 today) worth of damage to the building. The group decided to rebuild, but in the end decided to make it a two-story building instead of three. The current address of the building is 1 East Alger Street. The next time you walk or drive by take a moment to imagine what the building would have looked like with that third floor opera house.  

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