Sep 21, 2023

📸 Flashback Friday: Salina Post - Smoky Hill Museum - Vol. 8

Posted Sep 21, 2023 8:57 PM
Flashback Friday
Flashback Friday

Salina Post proudly presents Flashback Friday in partnership with the Smoky Hill Museum. Enjoy a weekly tidbit of local history from the staff at Salina Post and the Smoky Hill Museum as we present “Salina-Flashback Fridays.”


At 119 W. Iron Ave., near downtown, Salina's tallest building, the United Building stands as a 10-story skyscraper that began as a three-story opera house in the late 1800s.

Salina Opera House

Salina Opera House, 1886. Photo Courtesy Smoky Hill Museum
Salina Opera House, 1886. Photo Courtesy Smoky Hill Museum

Before it became part of the Salina skyline, it was first the Salina Opera House. It opened its doors in 1878, costing about $20,000 (valued at more than $600,000 today), and its three stories could host 700 patrons.

The Opera House hosted speakers like Susan B. Anthony and the grandson of Fredrick Douglass, Joseph Henry Douglass.

The building on the southeast corner of North Seventh Street and West Iron Avenue housed multiple businesses from the late 1800s until just after the turn of the century.

In 1912, the Salina Opera House went under renovation and became the New Theatre. Just over a decade later, in the late 1920s, the building was torn down to make way for a 10-story skyscraper.

Read More: Flashback Friday: Salina Post - Smoky Hill Museum - Vol. 7

United Life Building

Charles Shaver, a notable architect of his time, designed the building and was known for his work on churches across the region. However, he utilized an Art Deco style for the significant addition to Salina's skyline.

Notable century-old construction firm Busboom and Rauh Construction Firm built the United Life Building in just one year, from 1929 to 1930. 

The modern building featured luxuries of the time, like elevators for the building and early thermostats in each office.

As the building loomed over Salina, it housed businesses like the United Telephone Company, United Realty and Investment Company, Reynolds Tobacco Company, The Kansas Pipeline and Gas Company's general office and multiple insurance offices, attorneys, physicians, surgeons and optometrists.

The large building still houses businesses and organizations like the Greater Salina Community Foundation, Kennedy Berkley attorneys office and Complete Surveillance Solutions.