Built by the Masonic Lodge in what was then a thriving coal mining community, the What Cheer House was completed in 1893. There the populace was entertained by such notables as Weber and Fields, Walker Whiteside in Shakespeare's "Hamlet," Skinner Harris Minstrels, and the famed John Phillip Sousa band. Special excursion trains brought patrons from other towns as distant as 40 miles. Guy Lombardo Wayne King Harry James Stan Kenton Fred Waring Woody Herman Vaughn Monroe Sammy Kay Porter Wagoner Ernest Tubb George Hamilton IV Hank Williams Jr. Cal Smith Russ Morgan Orchestra Al Pierson Bob Crosby Lee Mace's Ozark Opry Clyde McCoy and his Suger Blues Band The Garrison Creamery Players
After 15 years when the Opera House was no longer in use, the Masonic lodge decided to abandon its quarters on the top floor and build a new temple. With news of the impending razing of the venerable old building came a movement in 1965 to save it. Countless days were spent researching the fascinating history and original physical details of the building; and hundreds of hours were spent by volunteers in restoring it to its original condition and authentic style.
There are other restored opera houses, but the one at What Cheer is unique in two ways: It is in a city with a population of only 868 and it has been successful in presenting nationally known entertainment, including
There have also been choral concerts and college drama groups.
Newspapers, TV, radio, and magazines have given the Opera House nation-wide publicity. It is a source of pride not only to the community but to patrons from many areas of Iowa, some of whom charter buses to attend.