More than a century before it hosted ten-pin bowling matches, the southeast corner of Euclid Avenue and East 4th Street (then called Sheriff Street) offered operatic entertainment. Indeed, the Euclid Avenue Opera House, which opened on September 6, 1875, stood at the heart of what was at the time Cleveland's theater district.
Stock companies were popular at the time, and John A. Ellsler's stock company and drama school was one of the most notable in Cleveland's history. This company and school took up residence in the Euclid Avenue Opera house when it opened. Like most of Cleveland's theaters, management of the Euclid Avenue Opera House changed on more than one occasion. Ellsler sank (and lost) a fortune in his Cleveland theaters. He also lost the Opera House. In 1877, Marcus A. Hanna bid $43,050 for a theater that had cost $200,000 to build. The Opera House's management continued to change hands as Hanna leased the theater to his cousin L.G. Hanna, Augustus Hartz, Abraham Lincoln Erlanger, and George Fox.
On October 29, 1892, the electrical fixtures that had contributed to the Opera House's status as "one of the Nation's best known theaters" in 1875, were blamed for starting the fire that destroyed it. In mid January 1893, the rebuilding of the Opera House started on the same location as its burnt predecessor. The new Opera House reopened less than a year after the fire.
The Euclid Avenue Opera House continued its theatrical productions for nearly thirty more years. Ironically, the fall of the Euclid Avenue Opera House coincided with the rise of Playhouse Square and had, in fact, been at the heart of an earlier, loosely arrayed theater district of sorts that predated Playhouse Square. On April 2, 1922, the last curtain was dropped after a revisited performance of Uncle Tom's Cabin. The morning after its last play, demolition on the Opera House began to make room for the one of S. S. Kresge Company's twenty-eight stores. In the wake of the decline of downtown retailing, the Kresge building found new life as the Corner Alley, a staple of the East 4th entertainment district.