The Riverside Park area changed hands many times in the early years of the city. Theophile Bruguier owned the area for over twenty years before selling it around 1880. It was finally purchased in 1890 by the Riverside Park Land Company. Owners included: James Booge, John Hornick, John Peirce, E. C. Peters, and James Peavey. The intent of the company was to develop the land for houses, factories, and railway branch lines. Since many of these men also owned the City and Suburban Railway Company, the prospects for success seemed certain.
The Financial Panic of 1893 changed all their plans. Both the Land Company and the Railway Company went bankrupt. The railway company was purchased by the Sioux City Traction Company and a new company known Riverside Park Improvement Company purchased the land.
The land owned by the Sioux City Traction Company was leased in 1905 for the purpose of building the Commercial Men's Boat Club. This was one of the last boat clubs to be formed in the area. The purpose of the club was similar to that of a country club today. It included both men and women as members. The cost of the two story building was $10,000. It included a large open dance hall, parlors, smoking rooms, and locker rooms on the first floor. The basement held showers and a dressing room. The second floor held card rooms and billiard rooms and women's retiring and bath rooms. Outdoors, it had tennis courts, croquet fields and docks for canoes. By 1911 the club had become one of the most popular among the local citizens and traveling men. Unfortunately a fire burned the club to the ground.
The decision was made to rebuild. First the members purchased the land they had previously leased and then they began their new building. The building was completed and opened in just sixty days. With the new building came a new name: Shore Acres Boat Club. The building was built on the original foundation but only one story high. The main floor contained a screened dance floor that would hold over 400 people, six bowling lanes and a kitchen. The wrap-around porches (verandas) were screened in to provide an insect free area to sit or picnic. Outside were 6 tennis courts. Small lots were sold for members to build cottages of which ten were constructed. The club continued until 1928 when bankruptcy was declared due to high dues needed to maintain the building.
In 1935 Tom Archer rented and remodeled the building to use as a dance hall. Archer was a well-known promoter of big bands. In 1937 a revolving stage was added along with a new outside dance floor. The stage could be turned around for evening dances outside. Using both the inside and outside dance floors, it could accommodate more than 1,000 people. During the 1940s all the major big bands performed at the club: Glenn Miller, Lawrence Welk, Count Basie, Skitch Henderson, Louie Armstrong and many others. During World War II, soldiers from the Air Base were frequent visitors.
In the early days people traveling to the club would take the streetcar to Riverside. Extra large cars were used to accommodate the large numbers of weekend visitors to the area. The aerial photograph shows the tracks in front of the club.
It continued to be used as a dance club until Archer's death in 1963. It was only used during the summers until 1955 when remodeling made it useable year round. Large masonry block additions were added to the south and west sides of the building. Porches were removed and the walls closed in. The dance floor was extended to 9000 square feet and surrounded by terraced table areas. It could accommodate 1,450 people. Air conditioning and heating were installed. More that 3,000 feet of neon lighting, along with other indirect lighting, added to the atmosphere.
Big bands were not the only entertainment scheduled at Shore Acres. The Beach Boys and Chubby Checker also performed there. But due to the decline in ballroom dancing and other factors, the building was closed for good in July of 1965 by the widow of Tom Archer.
But that is not the last chapter in this historic building site. It was purchased the following year by the Sioux City Community Theatre. The Community Theatre had lost its previous home in the Victory theatre and had eight previous homes. It has served as the permanent home for the theatre ever since. The interior space has been divided up to serve a variety of purposes from costume shop to scene shop, dressing rooms, storage, the theatre itself and a dining area. The theatre holds 438 seats in its raised seating area providing an unobstructed view of the three-quarter thrust stage. The mezzanine area provides seating for 250 people. Over the years the building has undergone constant remodeling to upgrade and maintain the building.
Exploring the basement of the current theatre shows the evolution of the site. Still visible is the tile floor of the men's shower room, and the plumbing outlined on the old walls. Much of the brick foundation harkens back to the glory years of the building and even glimpses of the old caretaker's cabin can be observed.