KOOSKIA — For generations, the Kooskia Opera House has served as a hub for the arts in this remote northern Idaho town of 600 people nestled between the South and Middle forks of the Clearwater River.Built in 1912 as an opera house, the two-story building is up for sale, and a group of area residents are working against time to buy the space and turn it into a community-owned and run theater and activity center that could serve the region.
“Schools can’t afford art and music programs any more. That is what we want to do with this building. We see it as a place for drama camps, ballet and voice lessons — all kinds of new opportunities,” said Cindy Lane of Harpster, one member of the citizen group that has formed the Kooskia Opera House board of directors to manage the project.
So far the group has earned about $83,000 of the $199,000 asking price. They have until Sept. 1 to earn the money as another buyer is interested in using the building for other purposes. They’ve purchased ads in newspapers around the Inland Northwest seeking support and toured the region’s summer parades with a float to raise awareness of their efforts.
“We’d hoped a major donor would step forward, but that hasn’t happened yet,” Lane said. “You always hope that a miracle is going to happen.”
For almost its entire life, the building has been passed down through one family, the Graves, who most recently ran a hardware store on the street level while holding occasional shows on the stage upstairs. The hardware store closed a few years ago, and the ground floor, which includes a large bar and a piano, was turned into an event center. Now retired, the Graves are looking to sell, Lane said.
The group would like to continue using the street-level space as an event center available to rent for weddings, dances, reunions and other gatherings, Lane said. In what is now a storage area on the ground floor, they’d like to add studios that could be rented by exercise, dance and arts groups. This would help create a stable source of income for the building, Lane said. The stage upstairs, which looks much like it did when it opened more than a century ago, could feature productions like dinner theater, melodramas and murder mystery shows.
Large and small donations are being accepted, and shares in the building can be purchased for $500 at Freedom Northwest Credit Union in Kooskia or Kamiah. If the committee is unable to raise the total cost, donations and shares will be refunded.
“We’re hoping other people see the vision and it catches fire. It’s smoking, but it hasn’t caught fire yet,” Lane said.
“We’re hoping people want to own a little piece of Idaho, a piece of history.”
More information about the project is available by contacting Norma Pfaff at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 816-2691.