So Minnesota: Anoka Amphitheater

So Minnesota: Anoka Amphitheater

So Minnesota: Anoka Amphitheater

There’s a hidden piece of history in Anoka that used to attract thousands of people every summer.

Along the banks of the Rum River in downtown Anoka, just a few feet from Ferry Street,  you’ll find the ruins of a former open-air theater that looks like it belongs not in Minnesota but rather in ancient Greece.

“It’s easy to drive by and not know it’s there,” Sara Given with the Anoka County Historical Society said. “It’s a little hidden secret.”

More than a century ago, music teacher Thaddeus Giddings wanted to bring arts and culture to Anoka. Giddings worked with city leaders to build an open-air amphitheater on a 30-foot hillside near his home.

“He was really invested in music,” Given said. “The amphitheater was really his baby around town.”

Opening in the summer of 1914, the amphitheater could hold 1,600 people on 17 curved reinforced concrete steps. The seating and stage were once covered with a retractable awning system to protect people from the weather. The theater was used for plays, musical performances and movies.

“They would [have] moving picture nights with musicians playing along with the movie because they weren’t talkies yet,” Given said.

By the late 1930s, Giddings leaves town and the amphitheater’s popularity falls.

“It slowly dies away and it becomes this mysterious place on the Rum River,” Given said.

In 1979 the amphitheater was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.