Edward H. Couse purchased this lot and the original store building on it from Charles P. Ingalls. By 1885 Couse had succeeded well enough with his hardware business to expand his operation and replace his original wood framed building with a brick-veneered store building (completed building shown above).
Building began during the summer of 1886.
The cost of the Opera House was about $9,000. It was a 44-foot x 80-foot brick-veneered structure with two floors and a basement. There was an elevator at the back of the building running to the basement and up to the second floor. It was used to move furniture, props and other large items.
December 1886 was the opening of the Couse Opera House, which was located on the second floor of the new building.
The Opera House became the center of community activities and remained so for more than two decades. Sometime before the US entered WWI in 1917, Edward Couse sold his business. It became the Miller Opera House and Miller Hardware. Eventually, it was sold again and owned by Bouchard and Son as a department store.
In 1929, the building became a JC Penney store and remained so for about thirty years.
In 2015, it is now the home of Ward’s Store. Many tourists to De Smet enjoy stopping here for a cup of coffee and a donut or lunch. The locals also frequent Ward’s store and it is a staple of the downtown community.
“Pa’s first building in town was located at the northwest corner of Second Street and Calumet Avenue. He had an office building and stable on this lot and his store was diagonal across the street from it.
The store had a tall false-front, a front door with a window on either side, one long room and a back door with a side window near it. The family spent a short time here before they quickly moved out to the claim, fearful of claim-jumpers.”
By the Shores of Silver Lake, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Additional Photos of this Location
The two photos (above) are a 1914 edition postcard of the hardware store and opera house.
This photograph (above) gives an idea of the busy intersection that the Couse building sits on, at Calumet Ave. and 2nd Street. Notice the advertisements painted on the side of the other brick building across 2nd Street, what a neat piece of history!
This photograph of the De Smet Pony Brigade showcases the Couse Building in the background and a dirt version of Calumet Avenue. Below, a large crowd stands in front of the Couse building.