SAY IT AIN’T SO, ST. JOE.
What a shame. The venue where Oscar Wilde lectured in St. Joseph, Missouri in April 1882, was destroyed by fire on Monday this week.
No longer a theater, it may have been just another empty converted office building symbolic of a Midwest hollowed out by recession, but it was still there. Unlike so many of the Wilde’s lecture venues which were lost to fire in gaslit days, surely, one thought, this building had survived that fate.
But no, and here’s what makes the loss a little more personal.
Just a day earlier I had been discussing which city from Wilde’s lecture tour that I would most like to visit. No kidding. I said St Joseph, Missouri. One reason was that both Wilde’s hotel and lecture theater were extant, and very few cities that can boast that—although there is one fewer now.
There was also much history attached to the city, and I have already featured the story of Wilde’s hotel on this blog here: Oscar Wilde’s Pony Tale, and thankfully that building remains. But we must now bid farewell to Wilde’s lecture theater. Somewhere, the grand chandelier grows dim one last time.
Built in 1871 by Milton Tootle, Tootles Opera House at 504 Francis Street (at Fifth), in St. Joseph, was designed by Angelo Powell. It opened on December 9, 1872 with a seating capacity: 1500. It was remodeled in 1923 as commercial office block, and latterly had been the Pioneer Building.  
The cause of the fire this week is still unknown, and this echoes the fiery fate of Wilde’s lecture venue in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Here are some poignantly observed photographs of the event taken by photo-journalist Patrick Evenson (used with permission):
For more from this photo-journal visit: Coverage Photography.
FACEBOOK (Aftermath picture)
KSHB (TV coverage)