John Piper was a young German immigrant operating a fruit stand in San Francisco when he, his wife, and brothers joined the 1860 rush to the Comstock Lode. Piper bought property on Virginia City's B Street, a busy commercial corridor, where he established the Old Corner Bar. He became a successful saloonkeeper and ran for public office, serving as an alderman in 1865 and mayor the following year.
In 1867, the shrewd businessman purchased Maguire's Opera House on D Street in the heart of the town's raucous entertainment district. It burned in the Great Fire of October, 1875. Three years later, Piper, now a state senator, unveiled his new opera house at the corner of B and Union Streets. Like its predecessor, the auditorium became a required stop for America's most distinguished actors and touring companies until fire destroyed it in 1883.
The third Piper's Opera House opened in 1885 during the decline of the mining district. Despite hard times, John Piper continued to book famous acts such as actress Lily Langtry and the John Phillip Sousa Band. One of the West Coast's most prominent theater managers, Piper died on January 3, 1897. His opera house survives as his legacy.
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