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BY MIKE AVITT
The Tingley Opera House was built in 1894 and opened October 15th of that year with Colonel Hepburn giving a speech. Dedication services were held November 10, 1894.
This is a double storefront building occupying two lots. The upstairs storefront on the left has four windows, while the right storefront has five windows. I’ve never seen this on any other two-story building.
In this photo, George Slentz occupies the first story storefront on the left with his dry goods business. Mr. Slentz was from Mount Ayr and had his primary store there. But, he also had branch stores in Tingley, Kellerton, Benton, and Lesanville. Slentz was a very successful businessman, passing away in 1920. He left this Tingley location in 1913. The other storefront was a restaurant for some time. In October 1904, Clifford McGugin bought this cafe from A. B. Kenyon.
The upstairs was used for many things including: dances, basketball games, political rallies, plays, moving pictures, high school graduation exercises, roller skating, revival meetings, and other gatherings.
In 1923, ten years after Slentz left, Mr. M. Mariner was the owner. The building had been condemned earlier and Mariner had planned to restore the opera house. That didn’t happen. Tingley was visited by three fires in 1930 and one of them took out the opera house. So, the Tingley Opera House stood for only 36 years.
The next building on these lots was the Avon Theatre, showing moving pictures. In early May 1944, the projection system ignited during a movie, and the theatre was burned to the ground.
A bond issue was put before the town in late July 1944 to build a community building on the same site, which was owned by the town. The bond issue passed 124-9 and work started soon after. The Tingley Community Building still stands today and is used for all types of gatherings.