Masonic Opera House

Also known as: What Cheer Opera House
201 Barnes St., What Cheer, Iowa


Photo taken by Ray Kasal



What Cheer Masonic Opera House Upstairs Ballroom, What Cheer, Iowa

Sam Knutzen

Play video on YouTube


Street Views 


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.

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.

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on June 4, 1973
Reference number
Architectural style
Victorian: Romanesque
Area of significance
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event
Property type
Historic functions
Clubhouse; Auditorium; Music facility
Period of significance
Significant year


19th Century (37,058)
Brick (42,460)
Building (4,232)
Built 1893 (588)
Built during 1890s (7,423)
Have Street View (43,380)
Iowa (2,497)
Keokuk County, Iowa (15)
Private owner (54,396)
Romanesque (2,715)
Stone (26,162)
Victorian (19,697)
What Cheer, Iowa (1)

Update Log 

  • April 11, 2017: New Street View added by Bill Eichelberger
  • August 4, 2014: New photo from Dave King
  • July 31, 2014: New video from Dave King
  • June 19, 2012: New photo from Ray Kasal