By David R. Schleper
George Reis paid $1000 in 1876 for the undeveloped property at the northeast corner of First Avenue and Holmes Street in Shakopee. In January 1883, George Reis built a two-story brick building that was to house a hardware store and another business on the first floor, and a “commodious opera house and dance hall” on the second floor. (The façade misspelled the original owner’s name as Reiss, instead of Reis.)
Two stories in height, it used a channel of contrasting yellow brick and decorative arches to set off its many windows, noted Jack El-Hai. The top of the building had a brick cornice with triangular projections. The first floor provided a home for two retail stores, including Reis’s own hardware shop, and the second floor contained the opera house that could seat an audience of 350. According to the St. Paul Daily Globe, the opera companies “can now make this city one of their list of good towns to go to.”
In the opera house, the interior decoration, all of the scenery, and two stage curtains were artistically painted by local artist John Kodylek.
Many people may remember John Kodylek. He painted the artwork at Babe’s Place in Shakopee. (Unfortunately, the art work was torn down this last year). Local artist and Bohemian Master John Kodylek painted the murals in the 1880s. Kodylek was born in Austria on June 22, 1845. He entered the Academy of Arts in Prague, Bohemia when he was 14 years old and remained there three years. He immigrated to New York in 1865 and went to St. Joseph, Missouri for two years, where he married Clara Hundt on May 14, 1867. They had two children, Julia and Arnold. Kodylek next moved to Sioux City, Iowa for three years. Later he moved to St. Paul, Minnesota. He moved to Shakopee in 1880 where he opened an art gallery.
Once the opera house was open, a group of local amateurs staged Macbeth as a grand opening.
In 1890, Sheriff Theodore Weiland bought the building from George Reis for $4000. Sheriff Weiland was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Jan. 5, 1849. He came to Scott County in 1864. He was the sheriff in 1879, and had a reputation for catching horse thieves. He became mayor of Shakopee for four years, starting in 1891.
Around 1900, a two-story addition was built at the rear of the structure. The triangular roof projections were removed. Theodore Weiland renovated the first floor, and laid a new hardwood dance floor on the second floor. This second floor added frescoes and it was tastefully decorated.
Weiland owned the building until about 1913. At that time, it was bought by Louis Elmer Dawson. Dawson owned the building until 1968, when Mr. and Mrs. Hoy bought it.
Though only four people owned the Reiss Block, there were several incarnations of the first floor. While it started as Reis’s hardware store, it also included a hamburger shop, a soda fountain, a theatre, a grocery store, a pool room, and several bakeries. The upstairs was used for plays, basketball games, high school graduations, dances, and other community events. Gordy Gelhaye remembered playing basketball in the upstairs of the Reis building. He remembered paying 25 or 50 cents to use the upstairs for all afternoon. The only problem is that it didn’t have any showers, so when the new gymnasium and showers were built at Central Elementary School, the basketball players were very happy.
Diane Sexton remembered her grandma, who was around during the Prohibition Era. Her grandma remembered “the old wood floor shook with dancing!”
The House of Hoy, a bar, opened in the first floor in 1957. The Hoys rented the building from Louis Elmer Dawson, and then bought it from his estate in 1968. At this time, there were other businesses on the first floor, including an auto supply store and a children’s dress shop. Upstairs was a publishing company. This was the last business upstairs.
The Hoys sold the bar business to James Corniea in 1969. The street level part of the building continued to be used, but the opera house on the second floor sat vacant, in need of maintenance. There were several bars in the downstairs building, including Cactus Jack’s, which shut down in September 1985.
The publishing company upstairs was Suel Publishing which published the Shakopee Valley News. It was owned by Cormac, Brendan, and John Suel, three brothers from Robbinsdale, Minnesota.
The Reiss Building was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1979. The city bought it to be used as a free right-turn lane. They demolished the building in 1986.
A book, Lost Minnesota: Stories of Vanished Places by Jack El-Hai compiled and profiled 89 historic buildings, including the Reis Block, which was torn down in 1986. (It also included the Merchants’ Hotel/Conter Hotel/Pelham Hotel, also in Shakopee, which was leveled in 1987.)
(Some information from History of the Minnesota Valley: Including the Explorers and Pioneers of Minnesota by Rev. Edward D. Neill, 1882 by North Star Publishing Company; St. Paul Daily Globe, Jan. 23, 1883; “Wrecking ball writes final chapter of House of Hoy’s 103-year history by Beth Forkner Moe, Shakopee Valley News, Dec. 24, 1986; and Lost Minnesota: Stories of Vanished Places by Jack El-Hai, 2000, University of Minnesota Press.)