NEWSLETTER OF THE NORTH MANCHESTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY, INC.
Volume XXIX, No. 1, February 2012
NEWSLETTER OF THE NORTH MANCHESTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY, INC.
In an interview with Steve Batzka, thirty years ago, Dr. Bunker shared some of the history and her recollections of the North Manchester Opera House.
THE OPERA HOUSE & ADVERTISING CURTAIN
An Interview in 1982 With Dr. L.Z. Bunker
By Steve Batzka
Batzka – We’re standing here in front of the advertising sign (Opera House
curtain) displayed for FunFest 1982. Tell us a little bit about the Opera House
and from where this sign came.
Bunker – The Opera House, as far as I can report, was built in 1876 [sic: 1st Opera House in 1880 and 2nd Opera House in 1886] by Samuel Hamilton [sic: David Hamilton], a citizen of this town, a civil war veteran, and he owned the brick yard at Servia. That probably had something to do with his venture in building structures in Manchester. It was supposed to be fitted out very elegantly for the time. It was the second story of the livery stable which was operated by a man called Bus Johnson. He had a large collection of what would be priceless vehicles now. Cabs, and barouches and a thing called the “carry-all” that they used to take the grand army of the republic out in, all 25 or 30 of them at one time. Also, there was a large hay barn and storage at the back. So the thing couldn’t have been too safe. It was lighted by coal-oil lamps and there was always a question about what might happen there sometime. It was very popular and for many years it was the site of all manner of home entertainments; home entertainments such as talent, local talent shows and recitals of various piano teachers and whatnot. There were occasional lecturers and phrenologists who would come and put on a program. There were also talent shows in which Uncle Tom’s Cabin was presented. Usually there were touring groups, over the country, and they would come and put up all manner of scenery and have bloodhounds performing in their shows and have a thrilling demonstration. Once in a long time, they had a burlesque show, although that was frowned upon in this vicinity.
The building underwent many changes over a period of years. It was variously improved upon and kept up. As late as 1914 they spent $100 on scenery, quite a large amount of funds on plastering and the back stairway, and also $45 for furniture, which was kitchen chairs with a long board nailed underneath to keep them in order. It was not upholstered in any way. The seats were hard and it was in no way air-conditioned. It was often cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. It was the scene of many activities in the community. Up to 1900, when we have an account book that belonged to the theatre, which was given to me by Mr. Hatfield who was the manager for many years, the son-in-law of Mr. Hamilton, the owner, we have accounts of expenditures and income and also some mention of the productions. Quo-Vadis was presented on Sunday the 17th of September in 1900. Maloney’s Wedding Day was presented on December 28th of that year. Then we have Mrs. Wiggs’, The Cabbage Patch and later a dance and a home talent show on December 10, 1901. Then the Kinney Comedy Company came frequently.
Batzka – Do you know when the building was built, exactly?
Bunker – 1876 [sic: 1886], so it continued for a long time. There were additional dances as time passed and the Diagon Theatre was here in 1905. Alice Brown Company in 1905. There was a lecturer, but we have no report of what it was about. Then a Hamilton Phelps Theatrical Company. Here was a production called The Royal Slave, brought in, during the week, total receipts of $85.30. There was a dance that brought in $8.00. The Kinney Comedy Company was back in 1908 and also 1909.
One of the biggest attractions was the annual fair which occurred on the grounds where the Peabody Home now is, and this continued until about 1929 or so, when it was discontinued and the grounds were sold for the Peabody Home. It was erected there following that. So that was part of the things that caused the Opera House to decline, among other things.
The Edward Doyle Company came here for many years. Mr. Doyle was really an accomplished Shakespearean actor. He produced things like Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, and Richard III. He also produced a drama called Richelieu and once in a while, Camelot. They didn’t play Twelfth Night. They thought it was a bawdy show, unfit for ladies.
Among the people who came here—Manchester was on two railroads at that time, one a direct line into Chicago, and there were numerous opera and theatrical companies that would stop here. Some of the names on the register of the Sheller Hotel are Faye Templeton and Nora Bays of musical comedy fame. She was the wife of Jack Norwood who wrote Shine on Harvest Moon. We had many itinerant speakers and people, good and bad, who came. The Temple Theatre came here in 1914. The Doyle Stock Company in 1915.
Batzka – Do you know the last date possibly, when they ended the theatrical
Bunker – It’s interesting that the decline of the itinerant theater in this country very nearly coincided with the beginnings of the movie industry. The Henney family, of which we’re going to talk later, built a nickelodeon which was the first movie show in town—open air theatre. It was located where Dave’s Restaurant is (northeast corner of Main & Market) and from there they went to the Crystal Theatre which was in the lower part of the second building from the Opera House. Then it was the early movie house. There you would see all manner of uncensored films of the most frightful nature, all black and white, of course. Film actors such as John Barrymore, William & Dustin Farnum, Wallace Reed, and Max Sennett were all censored. Sarah Bernhardt and Lou Tellegan and others, etc. As the movies expanded, another thing that happened, of course, was that the first world war greatly increased the supposed sophistication of the country and the emoting of the actors was booed and hooted at, rather than appreciated as it once was. There was a generally smart-aleck attitude fostered by H.L. Menken and George L. Nathan, who by the way, came from Fort Wayne, Indiana. This general attitude had a lot to do with reducing the theatrical business.
It’s probable that the last entry in the book is September 1919, when the Vernelle Price Company was here in an unpaying show. The Opera House was used for various things. Probably by the time the fair was discontinued [about 1930], I doubt if there were any theatrical productions after that. The various churches and the school began to be used as public halls because they had more space and better facilities than the Opera House did. By 1939 Stuckey’s Garage had supplanted Bus Johnson’s livery stable, of which we have the sign, and Olinger’s Bowling Alley was upstairs, in the Opera House building. It was also used as a basketball practice area. Its heyday was long since gone by the 1940s. The building lingered on until 1964 [sic: 1962] when it was demolished because it was considered to be a “fire trap” among other things. That was a popular expression at that time. Also the building had greatly deteriorated. I think the roof was badly damaged and they decided to take it down. I don’t know whether the Legion had title to it at one time or not, but the title now, I believe, is in the hands of the town and the lot is used for public parking. It’s undergone many vicissitudes over a period of time. It served a need in its time and lots of people had a lot of fun there.
Batzka – Tell us a little bit about the opera curtain here and the Henney family that was involved in its production.
Bunker – The Henney family, which is always called Haney around town, but they
called themselves Henney, came originally—the first of the family in this area,
had come out to work on the canal in Lagro. He had a son, Michael, who became an
entrepreneur in North Manchester and built a number of small houses. He was a
tinner and he also was quite an adventurous businessman and he built a number of
small rental houses, a number of them still standing on W. Second Street. He
owned the block which is on the corner of Main Street and Second and between Elm
Street and Maple. This was a vacant lot on which, even then, they seemed to be
involved with sort of theatrical things. This was the site of itinerant medicine
shows and wild west shows and various activities of that sort. Anybody who
wanted to, could put on a show on Henney’s lot. Following this the Henney family
lived in the house where Pat Snyder lives (202 N. Elm Street). That’s the
original frame of the house.
Batzka – But it’s been changed extensively.
Bunker – Yes, and that was their home. They had two children, Charles and
Elizabeth (Lizzy). Charles was a short, rather forward fellow and Lizzy was a
kind of Burne Jones figure with a high color and beautiful long auburn hair,
rather ethereal kind of a lady. She was the painter. She painted the pictures,
Charlie painted signs. I don’t know if she ever had any formal training, but she
painted many floral pieces and various types of things. There are still some of
them around here. She also painted a full-length portrait of herself.
Batzka – What ever happened to that?
Bunker – I don’t know! I’ve often wondered what happened to that. I don’t know. But there are a few people around town who have pictures that she painted.
Batzka – There are no Henneys, as such, left in the community?
Bunker – No. The family, from probably the early 1900s until, I would say, before 1915 or such, painted theatrical curtains and scenery. They would make these very large curtains—they had commissions from all over the Middle West—they were quite well regarded. Charlie would paint the signs and, as I say, Lizzy would paint the scenery.
Batzka – Did they paint them there in their garage?
Bunker – No, they had a building, an old building that formerly, in fact, was one of the early Lutheran Churches, then moved across the street. It was a big drafty thing. They had this and they referred to it as their studio. It wasn’t a sign painter’s establishment, but a studio. They were rather starchy about the whole business and they had scaffolds and step ladders, among other things, and painted with long brushes.
Lizzy got up on this scaffold, step ladder. She was always enshrouded in a long gingham pinafore that came clear to her heels. This went on for, oh, probably to upwards of 1915. I don’t know the exact date of her death, but she succumbed to consumption [d.Feb 7, 1911; her obituary has been posted to the NMHS website]. Quite a tragedy. She was a relatively young woman. She was married to Orlando Rex, a man who was an entrepreneur in our community who owned the Rex Telephone Company.
Batzka – Yes, I noticed the Rex listed down here (on the curtain) as a telephone number; Rex number 12.
Bunker – Yes, there were two telephone companies. He operated the Rex Telephone Company. After her death, he left here. I have no idea whatever became of him. [Ed: NMHS website has more info] He was very crushed about it all. He was very indulgent of her. So this (the curtain) is an example of their work. It’s on kind of a linen. Now the scenery that they painted was on a much heavier material and was backed by boards and slats, etc., and was a much heavier structure. This almost seems like a high-grade theatrical gauze.
Batzka – Yes, and she’s either used dye or water color, because it is not the normal type of paint. It looks like water spots. I have a feeling she used a dye of some sort, which has held up well with time and the color.
Bunker – Another feature which helped to do in the Opera House, and the sign painting and whatnot, was the Chautauqua. They came in here about 1915 [sic: 1913] and the following, with a very comparatively sophisticated program in which they made a great issue of the fact that even their roust-abouts were college students.
Batzka – Where did they meet, at the fair ground?
Bunker – No, they held fairs on the school grounds. They had nothing to do with the fairgrounds or the Opera House or anything of the kind. They presented very sophisticated programs for the times. I recall that they came in with gauze curtains, which this reminds me of, the life of which have never been seen in this country, and very spectacular. They also presented Shakespearean plays, lectures and whatnot. But they made anything that had previously been here look very shabby indeed.
It was customary to put signs on these curtains and, of course, that helped to pay for the curtain. There are several who are interesting here. Burt Wolfe was with Eichholtz of Eichholtz & Wolfe, where J.P. Freeman’s saloon (141 E. Main) is now (i.e. 1982). Rice’s Studio. Mr. Rice succeeded J.J. Martin, an old time photographer. He and his son, Wilbur, took pictures of the town for many, many years. Almost every picture of N. Manchester was done by Rice’s Studio. C.F. Smith was a very nice gentleman, had an elegant grocery. If you were a good customer, he’d come to your back door in the morning and ask you what you wished and the boy would later deliver it. We haven’t had anything like that in groceries in a long time.
Batzka – Can you tell what the Ko-We-Ba means?
Bunker – Kothe, Wells, and Bauer. That was made from the first two letters of each of their names, and that was a brand of groceries. Messmore’s Café was a popular thing in the community. Oak Street Barber Shop continued for many, many years here in the Union Hall on Walnut Street. George Steven’s Livery. The curtain shows the two telephone numbers that existed. They listed two phone numbers most of the time. Oppenheim’s were in their heyday at that time and had been since 1871 [sic: 1876]. The firm consisted, at that time, of Ben Oppenheim and his brother, Isaac. They were very interested in the welfare of the community and had to do with many benefactions in the community. Mort & Son, table supply house, cigars, tobacco, and fine candy—evidently sold miscellaneous goods. Hard and soft coal were the heating elements at that time. There was no energy shortage. You could get coal for several dollars a ton. Olinger and Warvel is an interesting sign. They started out having a bicycle shop and later, as you see, branched into Kodaks, sporting goods, phonographs, and automobiles. They got the Ford agency and from then on ended all the other stuff. The Ford Agency was in their hands.
Batzka – This (the advertisement on the curtain) was, of course, before the automobile came.
Bunker – Yes. It’s interesting that they started out with a bicycle shop and ended up with Lincolns. J.H. Bonner and Sons preceded George Bender in the undertaking business.
Batzka – They [Bonner] sold furniture as well.
Bunker – Yes. They were down there along where the bank (Indiana Lawrence Bank) is now, I think. I’m not so sure about their exact location, but the bank wasn’t always there (106 N. Market St.). Gribben had the Rexall store and there’s still a Rexall store in town. Gribben had the store and then, both he and Boots, were outfitters and general merchandisers over the years. Those are a sample of the various institutions that were operating.
Batzka – I assume they had to pay so much to have their advertising on the sign [curtain].
Bunker – Yes, and of course that helped to pay for the curtain. The curtain, the picture itself, is probably Warwick Castle, although it isn’t mentioned. It looks like pictures of Warwick Castle. It’s quite attractive. When you view it up close, of course, it’s not as elegant as viewed from a distance.
Batzka – It was meant to be viewed from a distance. Do you have an idea of how this curtain was used? Was it drawn between performances?
Bunker – It went up and down on a rope.
Batzka – A lot of people think of curtains as pulling back and forth, but this one would not have.
Bunker – There was a heavy pole in the bottom of the curtain and it was pulled
up by ropes oncogs.
QUOTATION FROM DR. BUNKER: “This rolls the curtain down on an era of entertainment.”
Opera House Fire, Monday, October 12, 1885. Photograph taken by Levi Rice of North Manchester. In the background amidst the smoke and haze are the ruins of the Opera House and adjacent buildings. In the foreground are stacked some of the furniture pieces including rows of chairs that were salvaged from the burning Opera House.
The following excerpts from the North Manchester Journal (Thursday, October 15, 1885) provide the reader interesting details of this fire:
Destroy Seven Business Rooms in this City Sunday Night
The Fire Engine Disabled and the People Unable to Check the Flames at First. Wabash Telegraphed for Assistance and Promptly Responds with Her Fire Department. An Entire Block Swept Away. The Opera House Among the Buildings Burned.
A Loss of not Less than $25,000 Caused by the Conflagration.
The cry of “Fire” started our citizens from their beds at one o’clock Sunday night to witness the largest and most destructive conflagration this city has ever known. At the hour named the night watch discovered fire in Hidy Bros. restaurant on the south side of East Main street and when first seen it had evidently been burning some time as the flames had already communicated to the rear ends of Harrel & Johnson’s barber shop, next door to the west and Thomas’ clothing store, to the east. These buildings were all old frame structures and dry as powder. The fire spread with lightning rapidity in this old fire trap and it was the work of only a few moments till they were all enveloped in flames. When our reporter arrived on the scene there were comparatively few people on the ground and they were engaged in removing the goods in the burning buildings and those adjacent. At this time the flames could have been easily extinguished but at this juncture it was found that the fire engine was disabled and could not be used although it had been at the shop for repairs since the Tuesday preceding. An effort was made to fix it for service which was finally successful although the machinist declared it was perfectly useless. There had been several damaged flues taken out of the engine and the ones ordered to replace them had not yet arrived. Finally some men were induced to go to work on it, when it was seen to what uncontrollable magnitude the fire was spreading, and in a short time the disabled flues were plugged up and a fire built in the box. The engine worked and was taken to the cistern at the corner of Main and Market streets from which the hose had been laid and at about half past two o’clock was throwing water.
In the meantime the flames had spread rapidly and had devoured several buildings, placing the entire south side of Main street in great danger of being destroyed. The three buildings mentioned were entirely consumed; Jenning’s grocery was a mass of flames; Hamilton’s saloon and Krisher’s meat market were burning rapidly and the flames had caught in the opera house building, the roof of which was burning briskly. Although the fire company had arrived on the ground soon after the first alarm and worked with might and main, assisted by the crowd, they seemed powerless to check the spreading conflagration. Bucket lines were formed to the river and wells near by and all attention turned toward saving buildings that had not yet been attacked by the flames. The boot and shoe store of J.F. Eichholtz was on fire in several places but was saved almost miraculously as was the frame warehouse of G.W. Eichholtz which was threatened with destruction every instant.
The engine, which was now playing on the opera house, succeeded in arresting the
fire before it caught in Johnson’s horse stable at the rear of the opera house
but not before the entire upper story of the building and nearly all of his
livery barn was destroyed. With this the flames, which were stretching eastward,
were placed under control and all further damage terminated. About this time the
Wabash fire department, which had been telegraphed for at the start, arrived on
a special train over the C.W. & M. Their engine was placed on the dock at the
river near Ulrey’s mill and soon two streams were playing on the fiery mass of
ruins. The Wabash department received word shortly after one o’clock but did not
get started from that city until 2:25 owing to a combination of circumstances.
The company had to be called together and the engine which brought the train
over had to be filled with water and steam got up, all of which occupied
considerable time. When they did get started the trip was made in twenty-five
minutes including two stops for railroad crossings and one to take water.
Although too late to be of much advantage, yet had our engine not been fitted
for service the Wabash department would have been of incalculable service to the
town. Had the fire continued with as great fury as when the steamer began to
play on it, a much larger portion of the city would be in ruins today. The party
returned to Wabash at four o’clock Monday morning.
Nearly the entire population of the town was gathered in the street around the scene of the fire and a more excited crowd we have never witnessed than it was before the fire was under control. The streets presented a singularly picturesque appearance as lighted up by the bright glare of the flames. Piles of goods, furniture, and other articles rescued from the burning store rooms were scattered about. The night was made as bright as noonday and the heat was so intense that people could hardly pass through the street in front of the fire. A large plate glass in front of Ginther’s drug store and one in Russell’s saloon, on the opposite side of the street, were cracked by the heat. By five o’clock Monday morning everything was out of danger and the worn-out mass of people sought their homes for a short rest before viewing the ruins in the morning. On Monday morning Main street presented a desolate appearance. Blackened walls and smoldering ruins greeted the eye where once stood a solid block of seven business rooms among which was one of the finest in the city—the opera house. Part of the walls of the brick buildings had fallen down and the ground was strewn with brick and mortar and covered with charred timbers which were still smoking. A disagreeable odor was emitted from the burning debris and the air was filled with smoke. People viewed the scene with saddened countenances.
The damage is a great one and is not only a private loss but a public calamity, especially the opera house. The loss has been variously estimated from $20,000 to $30,000 and is distributed as follows, as near as we have been able to get it from the parties:
David Hamilton, the heaviest loser, about $10,000 on opera house, saloon and fixtures. Mr. Hamilton had about $6,000 invested in the opera house. All the scenery and chairs were removed before the flames reached them. The greater portion of the stock and fixtures in his saloon was saved but some loss and damage was occasioned by the removal. One billiard table, the beer cooler and some other goods were destroyed with the building. The opera house was a brick structure, while the saloon was part brick and part frame. The walls of the opera house are not damaged and can be rebuilt upon, without danger to the building. He had no insurance.
J.M. Jennings is probably the next heaviest loser, and estimates his loss at $5,000. His building was also part brick and part frame. The larger portion of his stock was removed more or less damaged, but a large amount of stock was consumed with the building. He has as yet been unable to tell just how much. He was insured in the Hartford, and Liverpool, London & Globe Companies, for $2,000, half of which was on the building and half on the contents.
Lew Russell, who owned the two frame buildings occupied by Hidy Brother’s restaurant and Harrel & Johnson’s barber shop, loses $2,000 with no insurance.
C.D. Johnson’s loss on his livery barn which was on the ground floor of the opera house building will amount to $1,200. No insurance.
Hidy Brothers, in the building in which the fire originated, claim a loss of $600. But little of their stock was saved from the flames. Will Hidy lost most of his clothing. Their loss is fully covered by insurance policies in the Frankfort and Phoenix companies for $800.
Peter D. Young owned the frame building occupied by B.L. Thomas’ clothing house, and sustains a loss of $1,000, with $600 insurance in the German-American company.
D.T. Krisher, owner of the frame building between Hamilton’s saloon and the opera house, and to which he had a meat market, loses $500, with no insurance. Nearly all the contents was removed.
Harrel & Johnson, barbers, claim a loss of $50 on fixtures burned and destroyed in removal. They saved nearly everything.
There are several other small losses that cannot be estimated. B.L. Thomas saved his clothing stock entire, though no doubt a small loss is occasioned. Dan Sheller, clerk for Jennings, lost a $65 horn. Buck Sullivan, Al Scott and Steve Oakley, boarders at Hidy’s restaurant, escaped from the burning building with little or no clothing. George Fatsinger, baker for the same firm, also lost nearly all of his personal effects. The origin of the fire is a mystery, and although there are many stories afloat about it, the truth can not be reached at this time. It is evident that it started inside the kitchen, or the back end of the building, and had gained considerable headway before discovered. Will Hidy and the boarders disclaim any knowledge of how it started. There was fire in the stove in the kitchen early in the evening, but the report that they were cooking oysters at midnight is denied. Night watchman Dice was the first one to discover the fire, and he says that when he first saw it he thought the smoke and light was from the bake shop, as they have been accustomed to bake at that time of night. However he investigated and found the building was on fire, when he tried to arouse those inside after which he ran to the fire bell and sounded the alarm. By the time the parties, mentioned above, who slept in the restaurant, were aroused, the fire was so close upon them that they had to make their escape through the front windows and over the awning without waiting to gather up their personal effects. When first seen, the fire could easily have been put out and would have been confined to only one or two buildings at the most, had the fire engine been in shape for working, but like the old story of the the horse shoe nail, a whole block was destroyed for the want of a fire engine in time.
As is always the case there is a disposition to throw the blame onto some one and in this case it takes the form of a personal censure of every one connected with the management of the fire engine for not having it in shape for fighting a fire at all times, and especially for having it partly torn to pieces for nearly a week. No doubt there is some one to blame for all this. In fact it amounts to a criminal negligence on the part of those who had the engine in charge. Possibly it is the Town Board; possibly the chief engineer or the man who had the repairing of the engine in charge. There are so many connected with it, and all claim perfect innocence and good intentions, that it is hard to locate the condemnation where it properly belongs. It cannot be denied that the engine was in a shape that it could not be used and had been so for several days; also that if it had been ready for service that the damage would have been small as compared with what it is. The fire engine is a machine for public safety, and should be in readiness for use at any and all times, but nevertheless it, like all other pieces of machinery, will get out of repair. Yet these repairs when needed should be made so expeditiously that there should not be a day go by but what it could be used. Another class of men censure the machinists strongly for not going to work at the first alarm and putting it in shape for work as was done later. These men evidently believed that it could not be fixed at the time, but as the old saying is that necessity is the mother invention, the exigency of the time provided the means by which it was patched up for the time being, though by no means was made good. Experience proved that it performed the service demanded of it, but it might have become useless in five minutes; and in the condition it was then it was dangerous to those who worked with it. A lesson has been learned, although it is a dear one, and such a state of affairs will not likely happen again soon. In the heat of excitement many harsh words of condemnation were uttered, which we believe will be toned down or retracted after the cool reflection of sober thought. The loss occasioned by the fire and contingent circumstances is a heavy one, but under the situation it could not be avoided.
A few hours has wrought many changes. There have been seven buildings burned to the ground, part of the ground changed hands and new buildings begun on the site of the fire before the smoke had died away from the embers. Lew Russell sold the ground owned by himself in the burned district to three men, Monday morning. Milt Jennings bought eight feet of it. P.D. Young three feet, and Jesse Tyler a lot of twenty-two feet. Jennings let the contract for a new brick store room and work was begun clearing up the debris, preparatory for a new building, before the brick cooled off. D. Hamilton also began work on two brick rooms the same day, and it is likely that both Young and Tyler will put up new brick rooms on their ground this fall. The opera house building will be partially repaired this fall and it is likely that a new year will witness a solid brick block in the place of the old buildings, which will be the finest in town. What the cost of the new rooms will be can not be said at present, as the owners themselves have not determined on that point. While a very disastrous thing for the town, yet indirectly it will have its advantages in the shape of better, larger and safer buildings. It is to be hoped that the place will never be visited by such a fire again, although there are several places in the city that are as dangerous as the one just destroyed.
The engine burst a section of hose.
The repairs for the fire engine arrived by express Monday morning.
The fire department did excellent work, and deserves much praise.
It is safe to say that the engine will never be out of repair as long at one time hereafter.
The band lost its best instrument by Dan Sheller’s “B bass” being destroyed in the flames.
The new fire bell which was put in place on the tower built for it, last week, did good service in arousing the people from their slumbers.
At one time Eichholtz’s shoe store was threatened with destruction. The windows and stairway on the east side were burned away, but hard work kept the flames from reaching the inside.
The usual number of “funny stories,” after the style of that antique chestnut about the man with the mirror and feather bed told in the days of yore, has been perpetrated on the public.
Many wild rumors are flying over the country greatly exaggerating the amount of loss. The above is a faithful account and gives the amount of property destroyed as near as can be determined.
The fire has awakened some of our business men to the danger of having too many frame sheds behind their stores. E.A. Ebbinghous and H. Mills tore away their frame warehouses Monday afternoon.
Harrel & Johnson rented the basement under Ebbinghous’ book store, and opened their barber shop in it Monday. They are now ready for business and invited all their old customers to come and see them at their new stand.
Stephen Haines was in Buffalo, N.Y. at the time the fire occurred, and says he was almost paralyzed when he read in a city paper that five blocks had burned and the fire was still spreading. He was considerably relieved when he reached home.
Had Krisher’s frame building been torn away before fire had reached it, the opera house could have been saved. The Hook and Ladder Company began leveling it at one time but were persuaded to desist by the crowd until too late to do anything.
Marcus Harter and Wm. Woods have been appointed inspectors by the Town Board to examine all flues and chimneys in the business part of town. They can be seen casting their official eyes up the chimneys and determining on their safety or unsafety as the case may be. The loss of the opera house leaves the town without a public hall of any kind and may be looked upon as a public calamity. Mr. Hamilton, we understand, does not intend to rebuild it for some time, possibly not at all, but it is reported that the walls will be reroofed, a floor laid and the building turned into a skating rink the coming winter. We hope Mr. Hamilton will conclude to reconstruct it for an opera house, but such a thing cannot reasonably be expected, as the hall has never paid over two per cent on the investment since it was built. All dates are canceled. H.F. Harris and Geo. C. Bacon, of the Wabash Plain Dealer, came over with the fire company from that place to see the fire and gather particulars for their enterprising paper. Mr. Harris is also special correspondent for Indianapolis papers. The JOURNAL acknowledges a pleasant call from them Monday morning, as they did not return ‘til the regular train. It was a narrow escape for Johnson’s barn and was mainly through his own efforts that the building was saved. In fact it was a close call for a larger portion of town. Large pieces of charred shingles were carried as far west as the railroads by the wind. Those who had frame buildings nearby kept the roof wet and averted a more dreadful disaster.
This is the second time that the Wabash fire department has been summoned to the aid of the town. The first time was when the American House burned, three years ago. Each time Wabash has responded promptly and did good service. If that city should ever be in need of assistance this place can be relied upon to furnish all that is in its power.
We regret to learn that some parties so far forgot themselves as to express
delight at the destruction of Mr. Hamilton’s saloon and opera house. We hope
such is not the case; and if it is, it was the utterance of some prejudiced
person and not the sentiments of the community. No one should wish to see
another’s property destroyed. We have heard nothing but universal expressions of
regret at the loss, and especially at the destruction of the opera house.
...J.M. Jennings wishes to thank the fire company and the public generally who helped to rescue his goods from the burning building on the occasion of the fire. He also urgently requests every one indebted to him to settle their accounts at once if possible as he is in a most pressing need of money at this time, a fact that every one will recognize. He will open his grocery in the Cowgill store room next week and by a week from today hopes to be able to supply his customers from that point. This week he will solicit orders on the street and deliver the goods in his wagon from his residence where that portion saved from the flames is now stored. All his old customers are invited to call on him in the Cowgill room next week and he will fill all orders as though nothing had happened.
...Mr. and Mrs. C.D. Johnson wish us to thank the public for valuable assistance on the night of the fire and we will take the responsibility of thanking the people and the fire companies for their work, on behalf of the public and those to whom they rendered assistance on that memorable night.
Editor’s Note: More photos, information and articles on N.Manchester’s two Opera Houses, the 1885 fire, and opera curtains can be found at our web site: nmanchesterhistory.org, by using these tabs or links:
deeds>211-213 E. Main St.