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The COLUMBIA Theatre in Kenosha noted here opened on Wednesday, November 26, 1913 and seated 500, according to local newspaper accounts. There may have been a short-lived storefront theatre known as the Columbia Theatre elsewhere in Kenosha before that date.
The STRAND Theatre (aka NEW STRAND) was originally the CRYSTAL Theatre and was renamed and opened as such on Saturday, September 4, 1920 after renovations during a closure of several weeks. A new facade, wall sconces, new furniture and a piano were installed along with new projection equipment. Willard Welch was the manager, and the NEW STRAND’s opening feature film was “The Glorious Lady” starring Olive Thomas. On stage that night, Marjorie Sershon sang popular songs accompanied by Howard Sershon. The NEW STRAND was part of the Charles Pacini Amusements local theatre chain. Pacini had been planning the renovations at the time he was murdered; the case was never solved.
That’s Thomas Mitchell in the photo, doing a scene as a doctor for the TV series ‘Screen Directors Playhouse’. He was heading to the one-story art deco building next door, which is still there.
William “Bill” Exton, manager, KENOSHA Theatre.
Calumet Theater cornerstone may be used to mark grave
By Jeff Burton
HAMMOND | The designs for some of Hammond’s most prominent buildings and majestic homes started with a simple stroke of his pencil, but more than 20 years after his death, Louis Hess doesn’t have but a simple stone to mark his final resting place.
That’s something Debbie Thill is hoping to change. The Schererville resident and fan of Hess' work became pen pals and friends with the noted architect in his later life and is petitioning the city to save the cornerstone of the Calumet Theater building, designed by Hess in 1930, for use as a headstone.
“To have a marker with his name and profession is all he could ask for,” Thill said. “It’s always bothered me all these years that there’s nothing there.”
City Planner Brian Poland said the Historic Preservation Commission was set to discuss the proposal earlier this month, but due to a lack of quorum, that discussion now will happen in August.
The Calumet Theater, currently owned by the city and slated for eventual demolition, was just one of the many Hammond buildings Hess designed from his Hohman Avenue office.
Hess built palatial homes on Forest and Moraine avenues, introducing to the region the sloping mansard roof and the use of natural stone in exterior construction.
He also designed the original Woodmar Country Club building and George Rogers Clark High School in Robertsdale.
His work as an associate architect of Hammond City Hall is also noted, not because of any design he did, but that city council members refused to accept any plans from a Chicago-based firm without the involvement of a Hammond architect on the project.
“He really was the Frank Lloyd Wright of the Calumet Region,” Thill said.
A championship sailor who lived life to the excess, Hess lost most of his wealth in the 1929 stock market crash and lost what little was left on homes he designed and built in Munster that wouldn’t sell during the Great Depression.
Although his career bounced back, he was later involved in a serious car accident and spent his later years bouncing around nursing homes and residential hotels, relying on public assistance. Hess died penniless in 1988 at age 86.
The city of Hammond provided financial assistance for his burial at Hessville Cemetery, where he lies near the grave of his grandfather Joseph Hess, founder of Hessville.
In a 1982 interview with The Times, Louis Hess said while his designs had their detractors, he felt they would stand the test of time.
“Someone once told me, ‘Hess, you could make a new house look 100 years old,’ and they were right,” he said. “I had a flair for the romantic. I would put in a little round window or a turret. A house must look like a home. You should be able to put a picture of it on a Christmas card with the snow falling around it.”
(Indiana Evening Gazette, Friday, October 25, 1929)
HEAT IGNITED BROKEN FILM
‘Gang War" Picture Too Hot for Indiana Theatre; No Confusion.
A small fire which was extinguished before the Indiana firemen arrived occurred in the projection booth at
the Indiana Theatre, last evening about 8:40. The blaze was caused by the breaking of a film. The damage
was not over $100, $50 of which was the value of the film.
Frank Kelly, the machine operator displayed courage, when he extinguished the blaze with his fire extinguishers almost before anyone in the audience knew anything was wrong.
The local company was notified and in record time were on the scene.
The booth, which is fireproof and which has attached fireproof shutters which close, was filled with smoke as the hissing film burned up. The film was inside the projection machine and the small blaze and smoke emerged from all the openings.
All other films are kept in fireproof boxes until needed, so that there was no trouble from them. Mr. Kelly stated this morning that the fire was caused by the broken film igniting from heat from the light used in the film machine.
About 200 people were in the theatre at the time, and they behaved in a wonderful way. Some never knew until it was all over that anything was wrong. Some never moved in their seats. The music was continued and most thought that just a break had occurred in the film and
that it would continue soon.
The reel of film that broke was the 5th reel of “Gang War”, and that scene that was being shown was one in which a lot of action was taking place, shooting etc.
The theatre management wishes to thank the people for the wonderful way they acted and want to assure them that there is no danger, that everything is fire proof around the booth.
Tonight the picture advertised will be shown, just as usual.
(April 12, 1956)
The Miner Amusement Co., which has theaters in Rice Lake, Ladysmith, River Falls, Chippewa Falls, Chetek and Cumberland, announced last week that Ray Miner, brother of the late George Miner of Rice Lake, has joined the company and will be the new manager of
the Miner theater in Ladysmith.
The Bruce Theatre Presents The Chippewa Valley Barn Dance Show
TWO COMPLETE STAGE SHOWS
8:00 and 10:00 p. m.
TUESDAY – JUNE 20
The Chippewa Valley Barn Dance Show is headlined by two popular radio stars, Maggie and Scotty, who have been in the entertainment field for the past fifteen years. They have appeared and worked over WRFW in Eau Claire; WJMC in Rice Lake, Wisconsin; WEBC in Duluth, Minnesota; WENR in Chicago, Illinois; KSO in St. Paul,
Minn.; and are presently making their headquarters in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where they appear and entertain daily over WEAU.
They point with pride at their Chippewa Valley Barn Dance Show which features such personalities as Jerry Wright, champion fiddler; Ronnie Champion, trick yodeler; Barefoot Bob Smith, the boy from Georgia; and many others.
( The Bridgemen’s Magazine, Volume 21  )
Kenosha – Theater and Office – M. Tullgren & Sons, architects, 425 E. Water street, Milwaukee, soon let contract building 4-story, 60 x 100-ft., brick, concrete and steel, reinforced concrete flooring, concrete foundation, on Main street, for Orpheum Theater Co., 851 Tremont avenue. About $200,000.
(MOTION PICTURE, November 22, 1913) Kenosha, Wis.: Walter M. Burke and M. J. Isermann have invited bids for the purpose of building a theater, store and oilier building on Market square.
The COSMO Theatre in September 2011 completed a $200,000 digital film and audio upgrade. In celebration, the 472-seat COSMO offered free movie screenings of “Despicable Me,” “Bridesmaids” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” through Sept. 22.
Owner Dennis Lerch said “Film will probably cease to exist” in a few years. Trevor Dzwonkowski is the manager.
Shortly before demolition in 1953.
This is longtime manager Bill Exton.
LIFE Magazine essay on the KENOSHA Theatre, 1938 (Bernard Hoffman photo).
(Community Publications, January 17, 1973)
Tiffin launches 60th anniversary fete
In 1913 when most neighborhood movie houses were simply converted stores with folding chairs to accommodate patrons and the price of admission was five cents, the newly opened 800-seat Tiffin theater on North avenue just east of Karlov, was regarded as one of the finest outlying movie theaters in the entire city.
This week, beginning Friday, Jan. 19, the Tiffin
theater is celebrating its 60th anniversary and is turning the clock back many, many years by offering moviegoers a rare bargain, an admission price of just 60 cents for a double feature.
Two excellent films, “Butterflies are Free” and “The
Burglar,” will be shown during the anniversary week
beginning Friday and continuing through Thursday,
Partners in the building of the Tiffin theater 60 years
ago were William J. Clark, realtor and attorney; George
Kappus, a Northwest Side druggist and Vincent T. Lynch, who served as manager of the theater.
Right from the start business boomed and movie goers flocked by the hundreds to the “showplace of the Northwest Side.”
It was soon apparent that the building was too small to
adequately serve the growing numbers of movie fans, so
owners Clark, Kappus and Lynch made plans for a
A new partner, Joseph joined the group and they acquired property at the corner of North Karlov, just west of the original theater building.
Taking their cue from the grandiose movie palaces then
being constructed in the Loop, the partners built the
present Tiffin theater with seating for more than 2,200
It was a beautiful building, tastefully decorated and furnished and from the day it was opened in 1923, business flourished.
This was in the heyday of the movie industry. Radio
was in its infancy and television was yet far in the
future. No one had heard of x-rated movies and all theaters offered film fare for the entire family.
Looking back over the years, owner Jack Clark, son
of William J., one of the original partners in the enterprise, said “The Tiffin, since the day it opened in 1913 has continued to operate through wars, the
big depression, recessions, inflation, the advent of radio and television and lastly, x-rated movies and has survived it all. The reason the Tiffin survived when many others went down the drain has been our policy of offering the best in family movie entertainment at the lowest possible prices. Also, we never gave in to the current fad of showing
pornographic, x-rated movies. Our patrons feel they
can come to the Tiffin and not be offended by the movies on our screen.”
Asked why the preponderance of films made in the
past few years have been x-rated movies, Clark, who has
served as president of the Motion Picture Theater
Owners association of Illinois in the entire city, said “If people said the lives of the saints should be filmed, that’s what the movie producers would film – if
that’s where the money was.”
Since that isn’t likely, that part of the movie-going
public with no desire to see pornographic films will continue to attend the Tiffin theater where Clark is doing his best to maintain the 60-year-old policy of showing the best available movie films suited to family entertainment.
SCORE INJURED IN EXPLOSION IN THEATER – (February 7, 1931 – AP) – Panic In Audience of 2000 At Los Angeles Averted By Actor; Screen Star’s Honor ………Thirty persons were injured, several seriously, and a panic in a theater audience of more than 2,000 was averted when an explosion in a power main in front of the Orpheum theater shook the building late last night. So terrific was the blast that several persons standing in front of the theater were lifted into the air and others were hurled against store windows. A portion of the street was torn up and windows smashed. A brilliant first night audience, augmented by the presence of more than 1,000 motion picture players, packed the theatre for the premiere of ‘Cimarron’. Many film stars were on the stage making personal appearances when the explosion shocked the theater. Robert McWade, veteran stage and screen actor, averted a panic. “Don’t get excited folks,” McWade cried. “That was just part of the celebration in my honor.” The audience laughed and grew calm. The show goers filed out in an orderly manner later, when squads of police and firemen took charge of the situation. The blast was due to an accumulation of gas in the power main, according to H. E. Walker, member of the fire prevention bureau, attending the performance.
THEATER BOMBING BAFFLES SEATTLE
Police Investigate Mysterious Blast Which Rocks
City’s Business Area.
(May 12, 1928) — (A.P.)—
A theater bombing which left as clue only a sheet iron stage door riddled with scrap iron slugs and the conflicting stories of a half dozen witnesses turned into a mystery today to police who were investigating.
The bomb, manufactured with a motion picture film can and dynamite and loaded with rusty scrap iron, exploded
in the alley between the Colonial and Capitol theaters here last night while both show houses were filled. It was the sixth theater bombing here since the first of the year.
The detonation, which shattered windows in the alley and rocked the business district, alarmed theatre visitors and crowds in adjacent streets and caused a near panic in the audience of the Colonial theater.
This house was the apparent object of the bombers.
The only arrest made since the inception of the bombing campaign, was that of Thomas J. Woodhouse, a former amateur boxing champion who was taken April 23, charged with the bombing of the Embassy theater and released in $4,000 bail.
Labor disputes were given by the police and owners of the theaters as reasons for the bombings.
The SENATE Theatre ceiling collapse happened at 2:25 p.m. on Thursday, July 8, 1948. An adjoining building’s wall had given way and fell upon the SENATE’S roof. Fifty patrons were in the balcony at the time, some of whom assisted in rescue. One woman was said to be completely covered in brick and mortar, according to patron James Robins who had been seated nearby.
The MYRTLE closed the same year that its original builder and longtime owner died. Jacob E. Stocker passed on at 76 on November 16, 1950. He had also been a director of Allied Theatres of Michigan, and was survived by a daughter, Mildred Toplin of Washington and a son, Seymour, of Detroit, and is buried at Cloverhill Park Cemetery in Detroit.
In the mid-1950s, the MYRTLE was being used by a pattern shop. Late in October 2010, a Karen O'Donoghue purchased the MYRTLE theatre building at public auction for $500.
Click here to see the ROOSEVELT Theatre as it looked in the mid-1930s:
Kenosha closes the curtain on historic theater
Dustin Block , Special to The Daily Reporter
Kenosha is tearing down one of its historic movie houses over the objections of the buildingâ€™s owners.
Kathryn Hanneman and John Gee, owners of the Roosevelt Theatre since 2000, pleaded with city officials to spare the building. They want to turn the movie house into a studio for shooting commercials and television pilots. But after eight years, theyâ€™ve made no progress.
Worse, say city officials, the owners let the building deteriorate to a condition beyond repair.
â€œItâ€™s a building that is in a serious state if disrepair,â€ said Jim Schultz, Kenoshaâ€™s director of Neighborhood Services and Inspections. â€œItâ€™s a public nuisance and a public safety issue.â€
But Hanneman said the city is rushing to destroy a historic property. She claims the building is made of concrete and steel girders thicker than skyscrapers, and could easily stand for years to come.
â€œI think it speaks to their lack of vision,â€ Hanneman said. â€œProjects like this are done all of the time. They really donâ€™t have any reason to bring it down.â€
The single-screen Roosevelt Theatre, the longest continuously screening theater in Kenosha, opened Christmas Day in 1927 and showed movies for 55 years. It was designed by architect Einar Dahl and revised by architect Charles Augustine. Capacity was originally 1,000 seats but was reduced to 764 seats in the 1970s.
Along with the movie theater, there was a bowling alley in the basement. The interior of the building is all but gone, Schultz said. The bowling alley was removed years ago, and the original organ was dismantled in the 1950s to make room for air conditioning.
The Kenosha City Council voted 14-1 on Aug. 4 to raze the building. The council approved a $37,000 contract with Champion Environmental Services Inc., Gilberts, Ill., to remove asbestos from the theater before demolition. Asbestos removal is scheduled to being in two weeks. Demolition would begin in six weeks.
Hanneman and Gee owe $150,000 in liens and back taxes on the property. They said they do not have the money to make even basic repairs to the theater. They were working with an anonymous donor to receive $500,000 for the theater, but the money was tied up in estate proceedings, Hanneman said.
Gee, an entertainment promoter from Milwaukee, said Kenosha overestimated how much it would cost to â€œbutton upâ€ the building until money is found for restoration. His plan was to either fix the exterior and sell the theater to a developer or create a recording and television studio.
But that plan received little support from city officials, said Gee, noting that public money was available to help the Kenosha Theatre and the Rhode Opera House in the cityâ€™s downtown. When he asked for city support for the Roosevelt Theatre, he was turned away.
â€œWe wanted a property that supports itself, not one thatâ€™s supported by the city,â€ he said, adding that, in retrospect, he and Hanneman didnâ€™t have the experience needed to complete the project. â€œThat was the weakness in our plan. We didnâ€™t have a real estate professional in our group.â€
Schultz said the city does not support tearing down historic buildings. But in the case of the Roosevelt Theatre, he said, restoration would cost more than $1 million.
â€œReally thereâ€™s no choice in the matter,â€ he said. â€œThe owner doesnâ€™t have the resources to make the minimum necessary repairs.â€
The 12,500 square-foot theater is in central Kenosha about a mile from the cityâ€™s downtown, which includes two historic theaters, one in use and the other undergoing a $24 million restoration. The Roosevelt has not been used as a theater for more than 20 years.
There are no plans to redevelop the site, Schultz said.
The Vaudette Theatre opened on Thursday, January 27, 1938 with the feature film “Back in Circulation”.
Tina, you may be aware that the large 1927 vertical sign read “Dahl’s Roosevelt”. I believe the “Dahl’s” was blanked out shortly afterward but at least one photo with that configuration does exist, as do some others without it.
The owners have until spring to correct minor exterior repairs including paint touch-up and tuckpointing.
A couple of items for the record: the architecture is Gothic, a rather rare style amongst movie palaces; and the theatre had already been renamed the Uptown in the 1940s, long before its closure near New Years Day of 1959. Its manager then was a Mr. Gross or Groce, and at the Uptown’s closure he was immediately appointed to manage the Kenosha Theatre in Kenosha and when the Kenosha closed on April 21, 1963 he took over the Lake Theatre (formerly the Gateway, now the Rhode Opera House) three blocks north, all Standard Theatres chain houses.
There was a Preservation Racine tour of the Uptown in the fall of 1981 and restoration talk was flowing even then. Around that time some rock concerts were held in the auditorium, but patrons had to use a rear exit door as the lobbies were then occupied by the Avenue Frame Shop. That, by the way, was a longtime business (gone now) that attracted many “customers” who ostensibly were interested in picture-framing but who were actually there as curiosity-seekers to see what they could of the vestibules and lobbies.
The Capitol’s organ was relocated to a newer minimalist-styled playhouse built by a local amateur live-theater group on Northwestern Avenue.