Colonial Theatre

24 W. Randolph Street,
Chicago, IL 60601

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Showing 26 - 37 of 37 comments

Arturo
Arturo on June 5, 2006 at 5:39 pm

To Jan Foy,
my name is Arturo and I met you and your husband at the World Boxing Hall of Fame a couple of years ago. Lou Filippo had graciously invited my friends and I to sit with you all. You were all so nice to us and I was very very honored to meet your husband and he treated me with such “class” and didn’t know me from a hill of beans. I will never forget the generosity that you all showed us.
I would love to interview your husband for my Boxing website. I am narrating for the documentary that has been filmed on my mentor Chuck Bodak and would love your husbands input. I also have a million questions about the Foy legacy. I actually have a pic of myself and your husband on my website www.friscoboxing.net
Please contact me at
respectfully,
Arturo Gastelum

SDRoseman
SDRoseman on May 2, 2006 at 9:57 pm

Until today, I was unaware of the tragic Iroquois Theater fire. I’m working on typing my Great Great Great Grandmother Louisa Hall-Cluts’s diary and came across this entry from 1903:

“On December 30th there was a terrible disaster of fire at the Iroquois theater, Chicago. Cousin William Hoyt’s daughter, Mrs. Ernelie Fox with her three children all perished in the disaster. Mr Fox has since died. So that family are all gone. The funeral of the four fine victims were held at the Graceland Chapel. Cousin William and wife came from their winter home in Green Cove Springs, Florida to attend the funeral of their only daughter. Such a dreadful blow! Nearly 600 people were lost in that fire. Cousin Lottie, Aunt Lydia and Robert Bennett wrote me about it. I could hardly sleep nights thinking about it.

There are so many terrible sorrows in life that come to many of us that almost crush."

janfoy
janfoy on April 6, 2006 at 8:10 pm

My name is Jan Foy. My husband is Eddie Foy III. His grandfather, Eddie Foy, wrote a book in 1928 called “Clowning Through Life” in which he recalls the Iroquois fire. It was because of this fire that we now have exit signs on all theater doors and also, that the doors open out instead of inward. If the doors in the Iroquois Theater had opened out, more people would have survived. Instead, bodies of trampled women and children stacked up at the doors and they could not be opened. Also in the book I mentioned, he recalls being lifted up as a child and viewing the body of Abraham Lincoln in his casket. He recalls with great clarity being separated from his family for days during the great Chicago fire. It’s a facinating book.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on February 28, 2006 at 11:41 pm

Here is another postcard from 1911:
http://patsabin.com/illinois/colonial.html

Regarding the above discussion on human foolishness, you only have to look at the 2003 nightclub fire in Rhode Island to realize that human nature doesn’t change much in a century.

Broan
Broan on December 27, 2004 at 9:53 am

In 1904-1905 the Iroquois was known as Hyde and Behman’s Music Hall

spockva
spockva on October 3, 2004 at 11:32 pm

Yes, that is what I remember of my reading of the story. I was very interested in this as my grandparents had the book, and also my grandfather was a founder and 50 year veteran of Local #1 of the IATSE (International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees) in New York. My father is also a member of the IA, and I took the test for the union but never got called.

Well, thank you for confirming my memory, nice to know it still works!

Ziggy
Ziggy on October 3, 2004 at 7:42 pm

Hi Spockva, I found a copy of this book about a year ago in a second hand book store. You’re right about some people escaping via planks across the alley. Apparently the people next door had laid planks from their windows to the fire escapes to help get folks out of the burning theatre. The Colonial (AKA Iroquois) was built without sufficient exits, and some of the exits were locked shut at the time of the fire. More people died being crushed to death that being burned.

spockva
spockva on October 2, 2004 at 3:22 am

I used to own a copy of the book about this fire in hardcover. It was given to me by my grandparents. Where it is now, only God knows. I do remember reading a passage in the book that some of the persons in the theater were saved by placing a plank or planks across an alley to another building and they were able to crawl across. Has anyone else read this?

Ziggy
Ziggy on July 22, 2004 at 7:15 pm

Susan, if you read this, you should write some of your grandmother’s recollections here for us to read. They would be very interesting, if you’re willing to share them.

Ziggy
Ziggy on July 22, 2004 at 7:14 pm

All the above comments are pertinent, and interesting. I have a book called “The Great Chicago Theatre Disaster” printed shortly after the fire at the Iroquois. It states that all the performers in the show, (a musical entitled “Mr. Bluebeard Jr.) escaped with the exception of one, who was waiting in the wings to perform an "aerial ballet” on wires suspended out over the stage.

Susangrace
Susangrace on June 26, 2004 at 6:12 pm

My paternal grandmother was a performer on THAT stage on THAT night. As for there being no such thing as an immortal soul….I take exception to that…..
She was one of the survivors…..the experience of that night affected her deeply, she really never recovered from it. Our family truly believes there was more happening there than meets the eye. We must all open our minds. Open our hearts. Mans greed and foolishness must be overcome. When will we ever learn?

JimRankin
JimRankin on December 31, 2003 at 7:40 pm

The Iroquois Theatre fire was a landmark event that caused cities across the nation to institute or increase their theatre safety laws. It was this event with so many glaring failures in design and procedure that caused the designing and making of such safety devices as the AUTOMATIC fire curtain, the Crash Bar opener on exit doors that were thereafter REQUIRED to open outward onto a free space, and the deployment of the Stage Vent (or Smoke Vent) in the tops of stages to open automatically via the then new fusible links, as were the fire curtains. There have been several books written about that theatre’s fire, and the journal of the Theatre Historical Society of America also did a long article about it and other theatre disasters. It was the first issue I received when I joined them in 1976, so it was a rather rude awakening to the dangers in theatres. I was looking for photos of opulent movie palaces, but instead got a crash course in how dangerous theatres can be! They reprinted on their cover the painting of actor Eddie Foy in costume trying to calm the panicking audience as flames swept under the proscenium arch and bean to suffocate the remaining audience. The dramatic painting was reproduced from an “Esquire” magazine of 1946. The society’s “Marquee” magazine of 3rd Qtr. 1976 devoted nine pages to such disasters and included five photos of the Iroquois. The Society (www.HistoricTheatres.org) has the books on the subject, but that issue of “Marquee” is out of print. It is nice that the city chose to memorialize the tragic event and the progress we have made in preventing theatre fires, which are rare these days. There are rumors of a portion of the rebuilt Iroquois (the Colonial)’s stage wall being saved and added to the ORIENTAL now on the site, but no evidence to support that exists, and movie palaces customarily removed all of a preceding structure to allow sinking the heavy foundation needed for the much larger and heavier structures. Therefore, only the gullible will believe the stories of supposed ‘crying’ being heard near the stage wall at night by the supposed ‘ghosts’ of the perished. There are no such things as ‘ghosts’ since there is no such thing as an immortal soul to survive death, hence the deception comes from other sources. The IROQUOIS was a great theatre, but is now remembered as a monument to mans' greed and foolishness. Let us hope that the lesson is forever learne