Keith Theatre / Keith Opera House

Written By: nppladmin - Jul• 16•21
Originally published to on July 16, 2021

Today’s history salutes another beautiful downtown building, the Keith Theatre or Keith Opera House, located at 412-414 North Dewey Street. Today’s article primarily comes from the book, “City Bones: Landmarks of North Platte, Nebraska” by Kaycee Anderson and Steve Olson.

The Keith Theatre, also called the Keith Opera House, opened on September 23, 1908. It was built by Keith Neville (1884-1959) as a wedding present for his future bride, Mary Virginia Neill, and named after his grandfather, Morrell Case Keith.

Keith Neville was born February 25, 1884 in North Platte. He received exceptional educational advantages and graduated from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland in 1904. Upon Keith’s return to North Platte, he managed his grandfather’s valuable estate. On October 21, 1908, Keith married Mary Virginia Neill, daughter of Dr. William Neill, a prominent physician and surgeon from West Virginia. Both Mary and Keith were active members of the Episcopal Church. They had four daughters:

  1. Mary Nelson (married to Frederick William Sieman);
  2. Frances Elizabeth (married Willard Daniel Newberry);
  3. Virginia Neill (married Donald Frederick Robertson); and
  4. Irene Morell (married to Roy Victor Emanuel Bystrom).

Keith Neville was twenty-four years old when he had the theatre built for his new bride. The Keith Theatre sported an asbestos curtain, full equipment drops, and scenery. The furniture was considered “tasty, artistic, and serviceable.” It opened with 650 seats, a fire escape, and numerous exits; and it was considered completely fireproof.

The grand opening live performance for the theatre “The Burgo-Master,” a comic opera described in the Daily Telegraph as, “a decided success from every standpoint.” Between the first and second acts, a speaker thanked Neville for making the theatre possible, and “three cheers were given for the Keith Opera House, of which North Platte is justly proud.

In 1920, the building was painted and partially remodeled. North Platte’s first all-talking movie was shown on December 26, 1928. Then, in 1929, Keith Neville opened the Fox Theatre and that meant a very different future for the original Keith Theatre. It (Keith Theatre) disappeared from theatre listings in the city directory in 1932. And by 1930/31, the Keith Theatre as a “theater or stage venue” was gone and the building separated into 3 store-fronts for businesses.

Elaborate stained glass skylights from the Keith Theatre glory days currently decorate the front of Sandhills State Bank, located at 200 East B Street. <see photographs>

Brown Harano Studio, originally the Brown Studio, has occupied part of the ground floor from 1929 to approximately 2018/2019. Brown operated the studio until 1945 when he sold it to Earl Harano, who continued to use Brown’s name for the business along with his own. It was later owned by Roy Harano and Don Milroy, and eventually, Milroy alone. The photography business is no longer located there.

Ray Young opened their hardware and sporting goods store in one of the store-front sites (formerly the “Keith Theatre”) in 1963, after moving from 101 East 5th Street. In 1978, Dennis Young, Garey Yocum, and Dave Bargell bought the business. The group conducted a major remodeling project in 1979. Ultimately, they closed their doors in March of 2003, after 57 years in business as Young’s Sporting Goods. Hogans Sporting Goods was there for a few years and is now gone.

Today, the building is still home to two Businesses: Pro-Printing and Graphics (412 N Dewey St), and Excel Screen Print (414 N Dewey St). Over the years, the building has housed many businesses, including: the U.S. Post Office, a radio station, Austin Jewelry store, Walker Music Company, and a doctor’s office.

We hope you enjoyed today’s look at North Platte History!

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