The Sass Star Opera House in 1905 (submitted)

Historic Willow Springs Building Sees Complete Renovation

A complete renovation is under way in the Star Opera House building at the corner of Main and Harris St. in Willow Springs. The building, formerly owned by Jay and Theresa Waggoner, is getting a new lease on life at the hands of new owner, Blake Browne. 
Browne’s vision for the building is an interior refinished entirely with new materials. He plans for the first floor to hold two 1,750 square foot commercial spaces while the second floor will be finished into six studio lofts. 
When he took possession of the building, Browne said the interior was already gutted.
“It was a big open space. We came behind to fill it in and bridged out a lot of the bad wood,” he explained. 
Considering the age of the building and the various uses it has seen over the years, it is hardly surprising that Browne would opt for a complete renovation. As of the time of this writing, the project is still very much underway. Though the building is structurally sound, rags of old wallpaper are waiting to be covered, sagging floors are waiting to be rebuilt, and original tin ceilings are coming down piece by piece. 
The progress that Browne and his workers have made is significant. On the second floor, the future loft apartments are already framed out, and original floors have been built up with subfloors in modern materials. The majority of the materials for the renovation have come from Waggoner’s True Value, Browne said. 
The studio apartments on the south side of the building will measure just under 400 square feet, and there will be three additional lofts on the north and west sides of the building that will feature views of historic downtown Willow Springs. These larger lofts will have a little more than 500 square feet of space. The residential area will also have its own coin laundry facility. 
To access the second floor lofts, residents will have to climb twenty-two stairs. Browne said the lofts are not efficiency or economy lofts, but rather “higher end studio apartments.”
Browne plans to personally manage the building once it is complete and rented out. He pointed out the upstairs lofts could be rented as office space because the building is zoned residential/commercial. 
The Star Opera Building was originally built by Frank Sass in 1905. It housed the State Bank of Willow Springs, a drugstore, and a furniture store on the ground floor and an amusement hall on the second floor. An article by Lou Wehmer on the subject published by Howell County News quotes the West Plains Quill to say, “[The upper floor] is large enough to hold six hundred opera chairs and is furnished in the most elegant style and best of everything.  There are two large stairways so that it can be emptied quickly.”
The vestiges of the original staircases are still visible today as the work goes on in this historic Willow Springs building. Though there is not a firm date for the completion of the renovation, Browne said the building will likely be ready for renters by the end of the summer. 
Browne moved to Willow Springs in 2013, and relocated his trucking company, Indian Hill Trucking, to the area in 2016. He also operates American Diesel Mechanics. Both businesses are located on Frisco St. in Willow Springs.

Howell County News

110 W. Main St.,
Willow Springs, MO 65793
417-252-2123

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