From Masonic Temple.
Steele MacKaye’s Scenitorium ranked among the great disasters of American show business. The Columbian Exposition Scenitorium was never finished due to lack of funds. However, the Electric Scenic Theater, a smaller version of MacKaye’s vision did prove to be fairly successful.
Electric Scenic Theatre
Electric Scenic Theatre
In the Electric Scenic Theatre (A Day in the Alps), Mr. Arthur Schwarz, Concessionaire, is shown something really wonderful.
The stage picture is a beautiful Swiss Alpine scenery, depicting in a realistic way every change of nature shown from dawn to night, as each gradually appears, and representing some of the most wonderfully realistic light effects ever produced by electric lamps. It is almost beyond belief that the visitor is not looking at a marvelous production of nature itself, instead of a picture created by an ingenious and artistic display of electric lights. The scene represents “A Day in the Alps.” Tyrolean warblers perform on their various instruments, and sing their tuneful lays. Their renowned “yodels,” as sung at each performance, are applicable to the scenery. The entire scenic effects are produced by about 250 electric incandescent lamps, operated from in front of the stage, in full view of the audience, by switches. The interior of the theatre is handsomely furnished with comfortable chairs. There are nine electric fans, producing a permanent current of fresh air, keeping the whole room at a low temperature and as refreshing as a sea breeze, it matters not how hot it may be outside.
“The Day in the Alps” begins with sunrise, and over the mountain top appears the ruddy glow of early sunlight. Then, as morning advances, and the volume of light increases, the beauties of the mountain become more apparent until their full glory flashes upon the beholder. The shepherd boys and girls are seen with their herds, and every feature of Alpine life is faithfully portrayed. Then a storm arises, and the effects here produced by electricity are surprisingly beautiful. After the storm dies away and the clouds vanish Nature smiles again. Then the day begins to fade, and at last it is night, with the stars brooding over all.
Western Electrician June 9, 1894
Electric Scenic Theaters in the Masonic Temple, Chicago.
The love of the American people for anything that is novel and pleasing to the eye was abundantly exemplified last year at the electric scenic theaters at the World’s Fair. These places of amusement were among the most popular places at the exposition, and they have since been widely imitated and reproduced, sometimes with extended improvements and with more attention paid to detail. Those in Chicago who did not enjoy the opportunity at the fair of seeing the scenic effects which were produced upon stage pictures by the aid of electricity, and who were not able to avail themselves of the chance offered by Steele MacKaye’s spectacle, the “World Finder,” at his suddenly terminated venture in the “Scenitorium,” may gratify their tastes for amusement of the sort in the recently opened summer garden on the roof of the Masonic Temple. The garden in itself, 302 feet from the ground, is a sufiicient at traction to draw crowds. Interest, however, centers in the two scenic theaters which are located in small houses, reminding one/forcibly-in style of decoration of the general idea of the World’s Fair buildings. Each theater is designed to accommodate about 75 persons comfortably, and opera chairs to that number are provided. In the first theater an Alpine scene is presented, the scenery of which, although very pretty,recalls too forcibly the theaters which were made familiar last summer. A mountain stream forms the motive of the picture. Upon its banks the houses are built; a church stands near by, while a mill in the foreground presents an opportunity for a waterfall, after the water has passed over the mill-wheel. A bridge spans the stream, over which villagers pass to and fro; upon a mountain side stands a castlc,while snow-capped peaks stand out in relief against the sky. The scene is called “A Day in the Alps” and begins with midnight, by the tolling of the bell. The break of dawn and the heralding of day present a faithful resemblance to the original and is particularly well done. After the day has been begun, a thunder storm approaches and passes over, accompanied by vivid flashes of lightning and the roll of heavy thunder. The evening is accompanied by the lighting of the street and house lights,and the moon rises, until the clock again announces twelve. The scene is shown upon this page, Fig. 3. Back of the scenes a complicated mass of electrical apparatus explains many of the pretty atmospheric changes. It is not the intention of this article to describe in detail any of the devices employed, for many of them were devised to suit the requirements of this particular case, and the others have been already mentioned in the columns of this journal. Focusing lamps, rheostat boxes, switches, reflectors and many devices of a similar character are present in abundance and are confined in an extraordinarily small space for the many effects produced.
FIGS. 1, 2 AND 3.
ELECTRIC SCENIC THEATERS IN THE MASONIC TEMPLE, CHICAGO
The second theater presents as a stage setting the view of the Court of Honor at the World’s Columbian Exposition, looking northwest from the west end of the agricultural building, and is most perfect in point of detail. The scene is introduced in the morning, and the sunlight illumines the buildings, including the Palace of Mechanic Arts, Administration Building, Electricity Building, as well as the MacMonnies and the two Electric Fountains. The lagoon is well supplied with gondolas and electric launches, which, although stationary, add much to the scene. In detail the scene is perfect. The statues are faithfully reproduced, and one has but to close one’s eyes and listen to the music which accompanies the scene, to imagine that the band in the band-stand really is playing and that the crowds are not mere paste-board fancies, but are living beings admiring ina wondering way the beauties of the departed White City. The approach of evening presents the finest opportunity for a display of the resources of electricity in the presentation of this scene; as dusk advances the lamps scattered throughout the grounds are lighted, the stars begin to shine, now one building after another is illuminated, and soon the border of cornice lights,which extended around the Court of Honor and which was so much admired at night, adds its long lines of light to the scene.
Searchlight effects flash from one building to another, and administration building, with its handsome decorative lighting scheme, shines resplendent under these streams of light. At last the lights are dimmed and the electric fountains, this time, fortunately, unaffected by the winds, begin to play. Many of the designs employed upon the fountains at the fair are used here, and the interior illumination, made by a Packard mogul lamp of 300 candle power, presents the usual changes and studies in color. When the display reaches its end the evening is far spent and the moon is seen in a locality warning the fair visitors of the approach of midnight. Perhaps because of its reproduction of a scene that is held in such regard by those who visited the fair, the second theater seems more attractive to all but those who have some idea of how all of these effects are produced, forthe possibilities of the Alpine scene are much greater in regard to electrical effects. The scene in Fig. 2 shows the fair at midday. The second theater is provided with the luxauleator or curtain of light, originally designed by Steele MacKaye and illustrated and described in the WESTERN ELECTRICIAN of February 24, 1894. It consists merely of a border of incandescent lights around the stage opening. It is outlined in Fig. 2. In the Alpine scene 160 16 candle power and 20 one candle power incandescent lamps are used, and in the other scene no less than too one candle power lamps, taking four volts, are used alone.
While the theaters are the most interesting from an electrical point of view, the garden itself is not without electrical attractions, and more are to be added, which will equip it with some of the finest of display lighting. It is the intention of Sosman & Landis of Chicago, the scenic artists under whose management the venture is being run, to make the place both attractive and cool, and potted plants, flowers, flags, paintings, fan motors and ventilating fans are abundant. From the roof hang vari-colored prismatic glass globes containing incandescent lamps, and refreshment booths, electric organs, phonographs and other electrical and mechanical devices are furnished for the amusement of visitors. Upon entering the building a visitor’s attention is attracted by a large sign composed of incandescent lamps in the form of a hand pointing upward and the words “Electric Scenic Theaters.” From the tip of the forefinger of the hand a row of lights extends upward the entire height of the building to the garden. This is called a “chaser,” and the lamp globes are of different colors. By means of a switch light passes along the line, changing in hue as it ascends, until it reaches the glass roof of the building, from which are suspended over the court three chandeliers of incandescent lights, connected by radial lines of lamps, an idea of which, as well as a partial view of the garden, is presented in Fig. I. There are 105 red, white and blue lamps in the central cluster and 84 in each of the others, while the radial lines are composed of 240. There are 175 lights in the “chaser” and 234 in the hand and sign. By means of the same switch which regulates the light upon the “chaser,” patterns of pleasing figures are formed upon the court decoration. This switch, as well as many of the devices in the theaters, was designed and built by C. D. Baker, the electrical engineer for Sosman & Landis, who has displayed much ingenuity in many of his special applications. It is a wooden, cylindrical commutator upon which are fastened lugs, which act upon 60 quick-break switches, mounted upon a slate board. The commutator is revolved by a small Crocker-Wheeler motor, of which many are in use throughout the garden, by means of belting and worm gearing. The apparatus is so designed that changes can readily be made upon it as new combinatiors suggest themselves. Near this switch is located the board con trolling all the current used in the garden and its signs, and which is furnished by the plant located in the basement of the building. About 700 amperes was contracted for, but it has not as yet been necessary to demand that amount. The board, which is made of slate, is a novelty in its way and is but three by six feet. Sixty circuits enter it and are controlled by one main switch, four separate cir cuit switches and 23 individual switches. Eighty sets of fuse terminals are placed upon it, as well as other instruments. It is but fair to state that all the improvements which it is intended shall make the place a most attractive one have not as yet been made. Much detail is to be added tothe theaters and much in the way of popularizing the garden is yet to he done. All the lamps employed are of the Packard type and range from one to 300 candle power. Whether this form of amusement, which is novel, will be successful in drawing paying crowds is a matter for conjecture, but the place is certainly worthy of a visit from those who enjoy beautiful scenic effects without action and a superb view of Chicago from its highest building.
Chicago Tribune, May 20, 1895
TEMPLE ROOF GARDEN REOPENS.
Several Novelties Provided for Visitors to the Lofty Amusement Place.
The Masonic Temple roof garden reopened last night under the management of George A. Fair. Everything connected with the roof garden is new, and the visitor last night saw but little to remind him of the same place last year. The electric scenic theater still remains, but the other stage has been moved around to the northeast corner of the roof. The present location affords a good view of the entertainment from every part of the roof. Directly In front of the stage are 3,510 opera chairs. while the rest of the floor space is given up to refreshment tables. A new feature of the garden is the concrete walks built around the dome of the roof, where an excellent view of the city and surrounding country can be obtained. It is the intention of the management to remove part of the glass roof, affording the an opportunity of enjoying the view and listening to the entertainment going on below. A large crowd gathered in the garden yesterday afternoon to listen to Brooks’ Second Regiment Band. and last night an excellent vaudeville entertainment drew another large crowd. The second part of the program is aimed to attract the after-the-theater crowd, as the roof garden expects to have its largest patronage after the regular places of entertainment have closed.