Then and Now: Turner Opera House

THEN: Turner Opera House, taken in 1880 by an unknown photographer. 

(From the Wichita Public Library Photograph Collection, Local History Section)

Wichita had grown into a busy city, by the 1870s , with enough organizations to require a meeting house. The first structure, on the southwest corner of Market and First streets, was built in 1871.

By the late 1970s that structure was deemed too small, and the Turnvereins, a German fraternal society, replaced it with a two-story building in 1879.

Though it was officially called the Turnverein Hall, it was known generally as the Turner Opera House because of its use for theatrical productions.

The opera house was 50 by 130 feet, with the floor of the auditorium 80 by 50 feet, the stage 30 by 50 feet, and had an arched ceiling.

R. M. Long says in Wichita Century that it "provided the Wichita community with the largest meeting place in this section of Kansas."

Its function as an opera house was short-lived however. When the Crawford theater was built in 1886, the Turner was converted into a market house. Later it was occupied by the old Market Street Car Lines, with offices and waiting rooms.

In 1910, Col. H. W. Lewis remodeled the building as a bank and renamed it the Anchor Trust Building. However, by 1913, the building stood empty for the first time since it was built. All that remained was a rummage sale on the first floor..

The former Turner Opera House was torn down in late 1917 and replaced by an 11-story brick hotel, which opened New Years Eve 1918. John Rigby and Richard Gray, the men most responsible for the new hotel, named it after Henry Lassen, a Wichita flour miller who was associated with them in the hotel venture.

The Wichita Historic Landmarks web page ( says the structure has "a treatment of ornate decoration at the 10th floor of terra cotta arches and window trim. The top floor windows of the hotel were originally leaded and stained glass. A two-story lobby with marble floors marked the entrance into the hotel."

A few years after the Lassen was built, says Peerless Princess of the Plains, Rigby and Gray "bought a small local radio station that was about to fail, moved its studio to the Lassen and renamed it KFH, for ‘Kansas Finest Hotel’." Two steel towers, each 100 feet high, were placed on the roof of the hotel to carry the aerial.

The Schimmel family of Lincoln, Nebraska, bought the hotel in 1942 and sold it in 1968. It soon ceased to be a hotel, was converted into an office building. In 1986, the property was completely restored, at a cost of more than $6 million, and renamed The Market Centre.

The Lassen Hotel is listed on the Wichita, Kansas and National Registers of Historic Places.

(Notes for the above article were gathered in part from the Tihen Notes, Special Collections, Wichita State University)

NOW: The Lassen Hotel has been renamed the Market Centre.

Photo D&V Churchman