Floor Plan of Historic Aitkin Opera House Building circa. 1900
Samuel Hodgeden enlisted Nels Holden, a Norwegian immigrant schooled in engineering and architecture in Oslo, to take on the task of building the new building.
Holden recently had arrived in Aitkin from Duluth, MN and was eager to establish himself as a contractor. Hodgeden was so impressed with Holden’s abilities, he also commissioned him to build a grand new Victorian home.
In the early 1900s, the main floor consisted of the Hodgeden-MacDonald General Merchandise store and the Security Bank in the front half of the building. A hardware/implement warehouse occupied the rear of the building’s main floor.
The “Back Room,” as it was called, was where lumberjacks would spend their idle summers playing cards, telling stories and sampling the coffee & cookies Hodgeden placed out for them. Hodgeden would gain a lot of business from the lumberjacks as a result of his hospitality.
Second Floor – Aitkin Opera House
The second floor contained the Aitkin Opera House with its ornate oak paneling, elaborate brass chandeliers and scrolled plasterwork where roof me wall. The west half of the second floor was used as a buggy and carriage warehouse.
There was a large elevator that would bring a wagon or buggy down to street level for customers. Hodgeden also operated a livery stable, so while the customer was settling their bill, the wagon or buggy was lowered in the elevator, and a team would be waiting at street level to be hitched. The bill settled, the customer could jump aboard and head for home with no waiting.
The original basement featured a barbershop and bath house which were accessible by a recessed stairway in the sidewalk. The heading plant boiler, a coal bin and storage areas for items such as vegetables and seeds comprised the remainder of the basement area.