With a new year comes some new, but familiar faces to the Friends of the Goss Board of Directors. 

The board is excited to welcome Prudy Calvin.  Calvin, recent recipient of the Ruth Ziolkowski Outstanding Hospitality & Customer Service Award will replace board member Missy Sinner whose term ended in December. Calvin brings a wealth of knowledge, not only of the history of the Goss Opera House, but Watertown’s history as a whole, as well as her experience leading other non-profits in the community.

The mission of the Friends of the Goss is to create exceptional experiences that strengthen and inspire the community of Watertown. “Our mission is driven by our board members who are all committed to enhancing quality of life in our community. The future looks bright for both the Goss and our community,” said Executive Director Jamie Mack.

The board also elected new officers at its January meeting. Milt Carter – Past President, Kristen Henderson – President, Michael Makens – Vice President of Finance, and Brad Johnson – Vice President of Friend and Fundraising.

A “Grand” Gift

A 1,200-pound community Christmas present arrived Thursday at the Goss Opera House in the form of a concert grand piano. A crew from Dial-a-Move relocated the 1927 Knabe piano from Steve Misener’s shop in Stockholm to the stage in the Reliabank Theater. The piano has a long history in Watertown and the Friends of the Goss Opera House commissioned Misener to do a complete restoration about 10 months ago. The piano was owned by Leon and Vernola Jelinek, a concert pianist who lived in Watertown during his later years. The Watertown School District bought the piano from the Jelinek estate in 1965 and sold it in 2005 when it was located at Lake Area Technical College. The restoration cost about $16,000 and was funded by a generous grant from the Watertown Area Community Foundation and a small number of private donors. The piano will permanently reside on the stage at the Goss. An existing baby grand piano that was on the stage was moved to the third floor Prairie Lakes landing.

South Dakota architecture firms captured one American Institute of Architecture (AIA) South Dakota Honor Award, two Merit Awards and one People’s Choice Award during AIA South Dakota’s recent annual conference………(other awards were listed here)….…..AIA South Dakota President Tom Hurlbert, AIA, of CO-OP Architecture, issued one President’s Award to Friends of the Goss Opera House, a nonprofit organization that helped restore and helps maintain the historic Goss Opera House, a circa-1889 venue in Watertown, South Dakota.

Restored Splendor

Historic 1880s Opera House Transformed in Watertown, South Dakota

by Kathy Ziprik, owner, Ziprik Consulting

When the curtain rose again at the historic Goss Opera House in 2020, the structure had been transformed.  Thanks to a five-million-dollar renovation, every inch of the 37,000-sq.ft. building space was refurbished, including eye-catching interior stair systems.

Situated in downtown Watertown, South Dakota, the Goss Opera House was brought back to life after a nearly 70-year hiatus.  The non-profit group, Friends of the Goss Opera House, purchased the building in December 2018.  They then turned their attention to transforming the structure back to its original 1889 grandeur.


“Everything from the roof down to the flooring was updated,” said Jamie Mack, executive director with Friends of the Goss Opera House, Inc.  “We had tremendous local support.  The hard work of many people transformed the Goss back into a vibrant entertainment center.”

A highlight of the opera hall itself is the new Linear Collection stainless steel cable and tube rail system surrounding the stage and balcony areas.  Interior designer Lori Storley chose products from L.J. Smith® Stair Systems to add a modern touch to the restoration.

“We focused on creating a historically sensitive renovation,” said Storley, principal designer with HomeTown Building Center, Watertown.  “This wasn’t a formal restoration.  Instead, we selected products that are respectful of the past and invoke historic elements, while still being modern.  The cable rail perfectly meets that task.  It’s the ideal product to allow great vision to the stage.  It also adds the element of safety we need and has the modern edge we desired.”

According to Mack, the cable railings were the last element to be added to the opera hall.  “I believe the designers picked the perfect system from L.J. Smith to finish off the balcony and stairs on the side of the stage,” said Mack.  “The cable system is just the right combination of elegance and functionality.”


Before entering the opera hall itself, guests stroll through a gracefully restored lobby area.  A newly installed wood and iron stairway system draws immediate attention.  It’s now called the Grand Staircase.

“The classic style of the L.J. Smith wood box newel and handrail complement the warm wood tones throughout the building,” said Storley.  “At the same time, the iron balusters add a nice, modern element to the design.  This creates a terrific balance.  The stair system looks substantial but not too heavy within the space.”  The decorative newel and graceful volute of the main lobby Grand Staircase invite guests upstairs to explore the building.  A second and third floor stair system adds detail and interest to the space, including box newels and metal balusters with knuckles.

“I’ve used L.J. Smith products many times over the years in other projects,” said Storley.  “The quality of the products and the wide variety of styles make it a great resource for designing stair systems.”

Helping make the magical transformation take place during the early stages for the Goss Opera House renovation was the team at Building Products Inc. (BPI), Watertown.

“We owe so much to the BPI team and their generosity,” said Mack.  “Tim Qualm from BPI did all the measuring, showed us samples of L.J. Smith products, and then did the ordering.  The cable system in the opera house was paid for out of our budget.  Other than that, all the stair system parts were donated by the owners of BPI, who have their corporate office here in Watertown.


“This was such an outstanding community project.  Gray Construction, Watertown, who installed the stairway systems and did so much work on this restoration, donated a portion of their fees to help us get this massive job completed in less than two years.  The quality of their work, under a very tight deadline, is commendable,” Mack continued.

Now open to the public for musicals, concerts, and plays, the Goss Opera House has helped reinvigorate Watertown’s business area.  “We’re seeing more and more interest in bookings and rentals of our facility following the renovation,” said Mack.  “There’s stronger traffic through the downtown area.  As a result, our attendance numbers continue to rise.

“We constantly hear from members of our community about how impressed they are with the renovation.  I’m receiving very specific comments about the stair systems.  People believe the cable system in the opera house is very classy, and they appreciate how it doesn’t distract from the entertainment on stage.  In the lobby, the grand staircase is now the place to be seen and photographed.  That stairway is the finishing touch on a stunning renovation.”

New Goss Staff

Growth is a wonderful thing! The Goss Opera House has seen exponential growth of visitors, private rentals, and programming over the past year. As the Goss has grown, so has the team that makes it all possible. Kathryn Jurrens and Betsy Fjelland joined Jamie Mack in the Goss administrative staff in fall of 2021. Together they bring backgrounds of event planning, fundraising, customer service, and an excitement for the future of the Goss Opera House. Betsy is looking forward to helping you plan your upcoming personal or corporate events. Kathryn is thrilled to be partnering with organizations and individuals in the community to bring in art, cultural, and educational programming.  Feel free to contact them for a tour or with any questions about events at the Goss.

The new roof attached two years ago to Downtown Watertown’s historic Goss Opera House has earned a first-place recognition.

The Structural Insulated Panel Association recognized the quality of the Goss’ new roof with a top award in its Renovation category at the association’s Building Excellence Awards ceremony last week in Orlando, Fla., according to a press release.

The new $855,000 roof was installed in Summer 2019. Incorporating clear spanning roof trusses and structural insulated roof panels manufactured by Watertown firm and Structural Insulated Panel Association member Enercept, the new roof replaced a structurally deficient roof. By using Enercept’s panels, crews from Hasslen Construction of Ortonville, Minn., were able to complete the roof project more quickly.

Originally expected to take approximately three to four months, the roof renovation project wrapped up in just under three months.

The news release claimed the Goss’ incorporation of the panels was the answer to many of this building’s issues. The release also noted the new roof will protect the 131-year-old iconic building and extend its life for another 100 years.

The Goss roof renovation was part of a $4.75 million renovation project for the entire building.

By Dan Crisler

Walk into downtown Watertown’s Goss Opera House these days and you’ll feel like you stepped back in time.

After more than a year of reconstruction and renovation totaling approximately $5 million, the 130-year-old iconic building originally built by Charles Goss has been restored to its former glory.

Although there are still some odds and ends to be done, the restoration has turned a building that had seen better days to once again being a crown jewel in the heart of downtown Watertown.

With a delayed grand opening due to the COVID-19 pandemic, enough of the Goss has been completed that it held its first concert — preformed by local band Greg Hanson and The Backroads — in the restored opera hall, known as the Reliabank Theater, Friday night.

“I would say our side of the building is 99.9% complete,” Goss Opera House Executive Director Missy Sinner said this week. “We have worked and are working as many hours as we possibly can and working as hard as we can.”

For most of the last year, the Goss restoration looked very much like a work in progress. The nonprofit organization Friends of the Goss began the restoration with the help of donations after having purchased the building on Dec. 31, 2018.

With extensive construction work dating back to at least last summer, Sinner said she felt the building’s restoration achieved full realization last month.

“I would say probably about one month ago I felt like the building was almost done,” she said. “There were finishing touches and backordered items that would come in one at time. As they came in, I would find myself thinking, ‘Wow, that room looks really great!’ or ‘That looks finished.’”

The Goss’ full historic restoration makes it difficult, and perhaps impossible, to pinpoint one particular element that stands out.

But if a single room perhaps captures the entire vision of the Goss’ turn-of-the-century elegance, it’s perhaps the opera hall highlighted by a replica 19th century chandelier.

At the same time, Sinner and the Friends of the Goss Board of Directors made smart concessions to modernity within the opera hall with new stage lighting and a top-of-the-line sound system in the hall. Those concessions extend throughout the building, such as automatic faucets in the bathrooms and motion-sensing lights, to allow for energy efficiency and enhance the elegant atmosphere.

“We headed toward a historical flair on anything we chose,” Sinner said. “But we definitely wanted to integrate technology into the building.”

Sinner said crews are still waiting on three pieces of furniture for the bride’s room on the Goss’ second level, as well as radiant heat panels. Delivery has been delayed due to the pandemic.

“Everything else is done so we decided to move forward on the Goss side,” she said.

Sinner said about 25 concerts and performances have been booked. She said the Goss plans to sell season tickets for the fall through spring months. Sinner said the opera hall will be open in the summer months for reservations such as weddings and other social events.

A combined grand opening between the Goss Opera House and its anchor restaurant, Mavericks Steaks and Cocktails, will be Sept. 25. The grand opening will feature free tours of the Goss and a performance from the NashVegas All Stars band.

Mavericks makes progress

As renovations on the Goss Opera House wrap up, its main tenant, Mavericks, is not too far behind.

According to Mavericks General Manager Kyle Lalim, the opening of the anticipated restaurant and lounge has been slightly delayed due to logistics exacerbated by the pandemic.

As crews continue to renovate the space and get other equipment installed, Lalim said that process should wrap up in the next week or so.

“The end is getting near so that’s a great thing,” he said. “New restaurant openings always have that high level of anticipation. When you couple a new restaurant that happens to be an anchor tenant in the Goss Opera House with what the Friends of the Goss have been able to accomplish, it just amplifies that excitement for our opening. We just want to make sure that when we do open our doors, we can deliver a level of service that Mavericks has been known for.”

At this point, the soft opening date is fluid. Lalim said it will be announced on the restaurant’s Facebook page — facebook.com/MavericksWatertownSD. It’s possible the restaurant could open in late August or early September.

Mavericks also has locations in Aberdeen, Deadwood and St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Soon to follow are the implementation of restaurant operations. That includes hiring and training staff set to be led by two experienced kitchen managers. Ben Richardson will be the head kitchen manager and Robert Johnson will be the assistant kitchen manager.

“Both of those guys have a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge in both the restaurant and catering industries,” Lalim said, adding the two men have more than a dozen years of kitchen experience across the nation.

Lalim said Richardson and Johnson will be valuable in leading and guiding staff to prepare Mavericks’ fresh menu items.

“Mavericks makes everything homemade,” Lalim said. “We make our own croutons and salad dressings. We cut our own steaks and grind our own burgers. These guys are just a great fit to our team and fit our business model perfectly.”

Lalim said Mavericks management and ownership want the Watertown branch to have a soft opening prior to the combined grand opening with the Goss. The soft opening will include appreciation events and celebrations with Mavericks employees, contractors and associated family members.

Mavericks will operate its main restaurant on the Goss’ first floor and a second-floor kitchen to serve guests attending Goss opera hall events and associated meeting rooms.

As downtown Watertown’s iconic Goss Opera House prepares to officially reopen its doors six weeks from now, crews are speeding toward completion of renovating the 130-year-old building.

Just within the last few weeks, Friends of the Goss Executive Director Missy Sinner and FoG Board of Directors member Kristen Henderson said crews have installed many elements, including trim, doors and a new railing system, this week. The latest installations go along with the previous installations of a new sound and lighting system this winter and a multimillion dollar roof that was completed last fall. The installation of tile flooring in some side areas is approximately 80% completely.

According to Sinner, the recent improvements were made possible from a donation by Lee and Jan Schull from Building Products Inc. The Schulls’ donation of the new trim, doors and railing system helped recreate areas that were previously missing or extensively damaged.

Henderson said one side room on the third floor will remain untouched to preserve historical authenticity. Referred to as Annie’s room, the untouched room may be the one, or at least similar to one, where Goss resident Maud Alexander burned to death in 1936.

“I think it’s fair to say that every inch of the building has been touched with exception to the historic room,” Henderson said. “We’ll have a rope for that room to give it a piece of opera house charm. I think it will be a nice contrast to show kind of where it has been.”

Although the Goss is on track to open with a concert by the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra on April 24, a capital campaign toward the Goss’ renovation is ongoing.

Henderson said the capital campaign sits just $78,000 away in donations to reach the campaign’s $4.75 million goal. An anonymous donor has offered match half of that $78,000 provided members of the public can donate the other $39,000 by this Sunday.

The large-scale donations, in both money and materials, will help give the Goss a premium and luxurious feel while allowing FoG to respect its small dollar donors.

“When people walk in, they will like the Goss is expensive,” Sinner said. “Whenever we packed a punch with something really cool that cost a little more, we found savings in 10 different areas to be able to do something special. We have been wise with our pennies.”

With concerts and events appealing to many types of demographics coming up, Sinner and Henderson cautioned that some features of the Goss, including the installation of fixed balcony seating in the opera hall, won’t be fully completed until the first few weeks have passed.

Regardless, by envisioning the Goss as a flexible event space, Henderson and Sinner reiterated the FoG’s hope that the Goss will heighten Watertown’s regional profile.

“I think that’s something we want to explore,” Henderson said. “It will probably not just be the Goss Opera House in Watertown but the Goss Opera House of South Dakota and the Midwest.”

Planned restaurant coming along

One of the biggest features of the Goss will be the new Mavericks Steak and Cocktails set to be located inside the building.

According to Sinner, the Goss’ opening will probably predate the opening of Mavericks, which has locations in Aberdeen and Deadwood as well as St. Cloud, Minnesota. Sinner cautiously estimated Mavericks may target a late spring or early summer opening.

Sinner said Mavericks will still primarily operate in a first floor kitchen as previous restaurants in the Goss have. However, Mavericks is expanding the kitchen to accommodate more preparation stations. On the Goss’ second floor, Mavericks will operate a banquet kitchen that has equipment on order. The banquet kitchen will be dedicated to serving opera house event attendees.

By Dan Crisler

As downtown Watertown’s iconic Goss Opera House prepares to embark on a new chapter in its 130-year-old life, it might be time to take a look back to its origins.

With information compiled by Codington County Heritage Museum Director Christy Lickei and local historians Jane Miner and Prudy Calvin, the building’s history and namesake traces back to a man named Charles Goss.

His story appears to be a quintessentially American one.

It began thousands of miles away, across the pond. Born March 24, 1833, in Neport Pagnill in England, Goss spent the first 11 years of his life in England before coming to the U.S. with his parents. For the next eight years, he and his parents lived on a farm in New York.

When he was about 21, Goss moved to Sparta, Wis., where he initially worked as a carpenter. He appeared to have put down roots in Sparta, spending nearly 20 years working and operating a livestock farm. Goss further diversified his skills by working as a barber and in the restaurant and ice industries.

If tragedy had not befallen Goss, perhaps he would have spent the remainder of his life in Sparta. Shortly after arriving, in 1856, he married Cordelia Hayward. Together, they had eight children — seven sons and a daughter named Emma.

However, Goss nearly lost his entire family over the following three decades as Cordelia and all of their sons died in Sparta. Emma would also die young at 28 on Nov. 26, 1897, leaving behind a week-old infant.

After losing his wife and sons, Goss married Mary Brown. Together, they would have four children.

In 1879, Goss moved to Watertown and opened a general store. According to a 2010 article written by John Andrews for South Dakota Magazine, Goss appeared to have built his original two-story store on the same site as the opera house on the corner of Maple Street and Kemp Avenue. A pioneer of downtown Watertown, Goss later built four more store buildings. One of those included an upper-story opera house.

Those buildings didn’t last long, as they succumbed to fire in 1888. Where some might have mourned and become discouraged, particularly after losses were estimated at $12,500 with no insurance, Goss saw opportunity.

According to Andrews, Goss built the current opera house bearing his name the following year, although not without pressure from city leaders to instead build a hotel. Before the Goss’ construction, Watertown had two opera houses in or around downtown.

With Goss’ insistence, the current opera house was built. Construction began in June 1888. When it was completed the next year, the building featured offices and 1,500 seats, making it the largest opera house in South Dakota.

Prior to opening, the Public Opinion, aligned with city leaders’ vision for a hotel, was skeptical of Goss building a third opera house. On June 22, 1888, after Goss laid the building’s first brick down, the newspaper wrote, “(Goss) will certainly make a mistake in his hall scheme. Watertown is already well supplied with facilities of this kind. There is a possibility of a hotel proving a paying investment, but another public hall would be a dead load.”

The Public Opinion’s tune quickly changed. By August, its editor declared that when the Goss was completed the building “will be one of the handsomest among our many handsome blocks.”

By November, the editor, who acknowledged his initial skepticism, voiced full-throated support for the nearly completed opera house.

On Nov. 30, 1888, the editor wrote, “The improvements carried forward in Watertown during the year 1888 eclipse in value and extent those of any preceding year in the history of her experience but no one improvement is a great surprise than the mammoth Goss block … Mr. Goss reared this magnificent structure, and as its walls gradually grew higher and higher the beauty of the building unfolded itself as the blossoming flower in the morning sunshine. The block stands today the finest and most metropolitan in the city, a monument to the enterprise of its proprietor. May it be filled with steady and paying tenants.”

A few months later, the building opened without incident, except for a reported mishap when Goss sat in a bucket of tar while working on the building’s roof.

One of the Goss building’s first major attractions was in early December 1889 when the Merchants’ Carnival visited town. Described as a “gorgeous spectacle of dazzling costumes and charming beauty,” the highlight of the carnival was a parade of 60 young women. The women wore dresses that represented local businesses.

In addition to developing downtown Watertown, Goss served on the city council after being elected in approximately 1900. Goss died suddenly in the early morning hours of Jan. 16, 1906, at age 72.

Day by day, the full vision for the Goss Opera House gets a bit closer to reality.

With new windows, an HVAC system and ongoing infrastructure work, 2019 has been quite the year of progress in restoring downtown Watertown’s iconic 130-year-old structure. With 2020 anticipated to be the year the Goss reopens to the public, the upcoming sounds of life will be complemented by a new sound system along with some new computerized LED lights in the second story theater.

Set to be delivered and installed in February by Jeff Engen, president and CEO of Brookings-based Audio Video Connections, the RCF HDL-30a Line Array sound system will fulfill the dreams of Chris Paulson, a music aficionado and a member Friends of the Goss (FoG) Board of Directors. Paulson noted the same system is utilized in clubs and theaters named after legendary singer Dolly Parton and late legendary guitarist and singer B.B. King.

“It’s a real high-end product,” he said. “We should have full coverage of the room.”

Paulson, along with fellow board member Michael Makens and music aficionado Mike Tomlinson, has led the effort in researching sound systems and meeting with audio executives since July.

With the sound system set to consist of 12 speakers — six per side on both the west and east ends as well as two 18-inch subwoofers and high-end microphones, Paulson said the Goss theater will be able to fulfill all of the requirements needed to get entertainment acts both big and small, including concerts and shows, to perform in Watertown.

“We really went for something that’s going to be not just for the local talent but also national talent,” he said. “We want to be able to have a rock show here one night, tear it down and have a wedding here the next day, Then, the next weekend we could have a comedy show or an opera.

“It’s going to be something that’s going to put us on the map for this whole region as far as a venue for performers.”

Goss Opera House Executive Director Missy Sinner previously said FoG is booking shows from April through September.

The new sound system will be paired with acoustic treatments to muffle the theater’s echo tendencies.

“That’s the first thing we’re going to do,” Paulson said of the acoustic treatments, promising the materials used will be applied so to preserve the theater’s character.

Although the costs of the new sound system were not revealed, Board of Directors President Milt Carter said the system was purchased at the recommendation and consent of major donors.

Friends of the Goss officials anticipate having the Goss reopened to the public sometime this spring.