Schiller Theater, also known as the Randolph Street Theater (1897), Dearborn (1898) and Garrick Theater (1903)
Life Span: 1892-1961
Location: 64 W. Randolph Street
Architect: Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler
Chicago Tribune, September 30, 1892
Chicago’s new playhouse—the beautiful Schiller—was formally dedicated last night. It is a grand acquisition to the temples of art and places of amusement in the city. For forty years the German drama has been practically homeless in this great cosmopolitan city with its great German population. Before the fire a hall on the North Side was devoted to the German drama, but it was swept away in the flames. It was never a fitting place, but it answered its purpose better than no home at all, for since the fire the Germans have had to be content with an occasional Sunday night performance and once in a while a brief but uncertain season in some of the leading theaters. But, loving everything connected with the Fatherland, something more than a year ago leading German citizens determined to erect a temple for their drama, and the splendid house which was dedicated last night is the outcome of their determination. They called it the Schiller in honor of Germany famed and favorite poet. Of course the theater will also be devoted to other attractions, including such English plays, operas, etc., as Manager Anson Temple may secure during the time that need not, according to his contract and lease, be given up to the German drama.
For the introductory exercises 1,300 cards of invitation had been issued to the stockholders and their friends. That tested the full seating capacity of the house. The sound of carpenters’ hammers and the swish of the painters’ brush, urged to swifter work by Manager Temple, could be heard in the new house up to the hour at which guests began to arrive for the ceremonies, when all work was ordered stopped.
“Lights On” at 7 O’clock.
At 7 o’clock the lights were turned on and the first persons to arrive were rewarded, by a view of a speck and span auditorium, which is to the taste of many the most beautiful in the city. Representatives from the leading old theaters of the city pronounced the place a gem, and gazed about with envy. The lines of the Auditorium had been proposed in miniature it appeared to all who are familiar with the great home of music, art, and oratory on Michigan avenue. The Schiller is the Auditorium on a small scale, but even more striking in magnificence of decorative detail.
Every seat in the boxes, parquet, the circle, the balcony, and the uppermost gallery was filled when music—the notes of Weber’s Jubel Overture—resounded for the first time through the new edifice. Manager Temple was proud of the opening, for the audience was representative. The women were there in elaborate toilets, the men were apprehensive, the oratory was of high order, the music was excellent. Altogether the beginning was auspicious.
After A. C., Hesing’s address, in which he told of the struggles of the German drama for a home in Chicago, and its final victory in the erection of the Schiller, Messrs. Welb and Wachsner, managers of the Germany company which will begin a two weeks’ season at the house Saturday evening, presented to him a great floral piece—a perfect image wrought in flowers of the Schiller Theater Building with its imposing tower.
The dedicatory exercises were in charge of the the following committee: A. C. Hesing, Franz Amberg, Edward G. Ulheim, George Weiss, and C. P. Dose, and the program was as follows:
When the curtain rose after the overture Franz Amberg, Chairman, the speakers of the evening, and the members of the Orpheus Männerchor appeared on the stage.
Franz Amberg introduced G. F. L. Gauss, who delivered a prologue in German. The poem was composed by the speaker and was heartily applauded.
A. C. Hesing’s Address.
Mr. Hesing spoke as follows:
- Ladies and Gentlemen, Esteemed Colleagues:
An old saying is ‘Nothing succeeds like success.’ Tonight we are gathered here with the consciousness that success will be on our side. For the first time we set our foot in this abode, which is destined to be home of German art. And we hope that our success shall draw with it the success of art. Though we have and progressed far enough to say here none but the sounds of our mother tongue shall resound it has found a home in which it can and will develop itself. It need no longer go begging for admission and be driven from one place to another. Just as certain as the patriotic spirit which bound us as we faced the problems of establishing this magnificent temple, with the same certainty we hope that the day is not far distant when the German spirit alone will reign here. Art has no native land, it belongs to the entire world; but in order that it may be grasped by the soul it must find expression in its mother tongue. There are thousands of Germans here who never enjoy dramatic art from the bottom of their hearts and never learn to honor it when it is presented in a foreign language. Dramatic art in itself brings us nearer together; it shows us our peculiarities, our faults, and our virtues; our superiorities and our weaknesses.
Mr. Hesing then related his connection with German theaters in Cinnamon in the forties. The struggle to establish a German theater in Chicago ever since his arrival here in the fifties. How the big fire destroyed Kinzie Hall, which was known as the “Deutsche Haus,” and the lack of enough lovers of German art to reestablish a German theater until the spring of 1889 a few men resolved to build such a structure. He had been connected with many a theatrical company as amatuer, and when in 1890 the building of a German theater came to a focus his cooperation was sought and he gave it heart and soul. Mr. Hesing continued:
- According to all human calculation this structure will outlast us all. We owe thanks to the precautions taken by the builders, Messrs. Adler & Sullivan, that it cannot be shaken in its foundations, even should danger arise from either right or left. Posts driven sixty-two feet in the ground give the foundation such a solidity that a settling of any kind is almost impossible. The foundation is strong, and mighty stone walls supported by steel posts and beams from the building which must resist the ravages of the strongest elements, no post nor column hems the view nor disturbs those moments in which we often wish to forget that we are in a confined or space or inclosure.
Chicago Tribune, September 30, 1892
IT IS COMPLETELY FIREPROOF.
Feature of the new New Schiller Theater Building—No Pillars Mar the Scene
The Schiller is a fireproof building that is really fireproof. It is built after the skeleton system of steel construction and rests on a foundation of of piling driven sixty-two feet below the street level, and covered with more than 300 tons of steel rails, I beams, and plate girders, all imbedded in concrete of the finest and most durable kind. The foundation is a solid one and is capable of sustaining the weight upon it if all the soil surrounding should be removed. The iron frame work sustains the building and the brick walls bear little weight besides their own. The walls are firmly anchored to the steel skeleton, insuring absolute stability. The architects agree that the Schiller Building will stand motionless during the ninety-nine years the ground it occupies is leased. The building when it is finished will have cost cost $700,000. Five hundred thousand dollars of this sum is paid by the sale of of 5,000 shares of the German Opera House company of Chicago. the owners, and the remaining $200,000 is paid for in 6 per cent first mortgage bonds redeemable in twenty years. The basement will be rented for $7,500 a year, the theater for $35,000, and the club rooms in the twelfth story for $5,000. The other portions of the building are expected to bring in a revenue of about $103,000 a year. All halls and corridors have mosaic floors, Georgia and Italian marble are freely used in the stairways and corridors. The decorations are elaborate everywhere, the idea being to provide a building that will be modern and abreast of the time in all its details. The exterior appearance is handsome and the adornment of the interior is everywhere elaborate and attractive. The building is heated with steam, lighted with electricity, and every room in it has hot and cold water, and there are fountains of filtered ice water on every floor. The aim was to build a structure that would be absolutely and unquestionably fireproof from cellar to garret.
The auditorium is beautiful. There are no columns in it, and in this respect the playhouse is modeled after an opera-house in Pueblo, Colo., which was the first to be built without columns supporting the balconies.1 The size of the stage is not its chief feature. It bis not the largest stage in Chicago, but there are none with better appointments and none with fine decoration above the arch. High up on the left Homer is represented in bas-relief in the color of old ivory. There are a bride, a mother and child, and other figures represented in the group of which Homer’s face is the most prominent. On the right, Schiller, the German poet, after whom the theater is named, is represented riding Pegasus, and there is a figure representing Beauty, a figure representing Power, a peacock with the Beauty, and a lion with the Power. Arthur Feudal has two paintings up in the theater—one representing a street in Nuremberg, the other Faust and Marguerite. There is a painting of the Seven Muses for the entrance, and it will be placed there as soon as it is finished by the artist Michalowski of Milwaukee. There are two curtains—one a fireproof curtain of asbestos. The drop curtain has a painting of Fame crowning Schiller and Shakespeare, and below a woman’s figure represents History. There are seats in the auditorium for 1,270 persons. Six hundred chairs on the orchestra floor are leather, embossed, and in a terra-cotta shade. The comfort of the audience, its safety, and its entertainment have all been kept in mind in designing and building the theater.
Chicago Tribune, June 8, 1897
E.L WEBSTER TAKES THE SCHILLER.
Milwaukee Manager Secures a Long Lease of the Theater and Will Put on High-Class Plays.
E.L. Webster, who for the last two years has been manager of the Academy of Music, Milwaukee, secured a long lease of the Schiller Theater yesterday.
“I have secured the Schiller,” said Mr. Webster, “on favorable terms to myself, and I will open it under my management Sept. 1. I am not ready to announce the new policy of the house, but it will not be vaudeville.
I intend to present nothing but high class attractions, and hope to put the Randolph Street Theater in the front rank of Chicago’s places of amusement.”
Chicago Tribune, September 5, 1898
The Dearborn Theater, which is exactly the same as the old Schiller with the exception of the name above the door, was opened last night under its new management, the Tri-State Amusement company. “Too Much Johnson” was the opening play, and the bill includes four clever vaudeville features and the biograph, with a new lot of pictures of war scenes in Cuba.
An immense audience greeted Edwin Arden, Julia Stewart, and J. R. Furlong, who took the leading roles in the comedy drama. Arden played the part of Augustus Billings creditably, and his support was good. Prospeta performed some startling horseback tricks, and Fialkowski gave some clever imitations of animals. Charles Horwitz and Frederick K. Bowers went through some pleasing travesty acts, and the Empire Company Four did some good sketch team work.
The Tri-State people say that it is their intention to run the theater at moderate prices and have only the best and latest standard plays and vaudeville features.
Chicago Tribune, August 30, 1903
A German proverb oft quoted and frequently put to the test is that “All good things are three.” If this saw be true, then the Randolph street theater, which for the last five years has been known as the Dearborn, is about to come into that which is “good,” for it changes its name tomorrow for the third time. That the new title, “The Garrick,” may prove in truth the bearer of all the good that possibly can lie in the magic number three, Chicago theater patrons can but wish, for the amusement conditions in our city are not yet of such perfection and completeness that betterment is impossible or undesirable. And yet the passing of the name Dearborn should not be recorded without hearty recognition of the good it has brought us. During the five years the theater has borne that name much has been accomplished in raising the standard of the performances given there, and many hours of pleasant and wholesome enjoyment have been made possible to a large circle of amusement seekers. We know what we have had, and while we are hopeful for the future, yet the changing is not without its element of uncertainty.
Eleven years ago the first day of next October the Schiller theater, as it then was christened, was opened, its builders cherishing the hope that is was destined to become the Chicago home of drama in German. Two weeks of performances in German served to demonstrate, however, that Chicago, despite its large Teutonic population, was not equal to the supporting of such a house, and on Oct. 17, 1892, Charles Frohman’s comedians took possession, and, although the German company retained the Sunday evenings for its use and occasionally attempted an entire week of repertory, the players who spoke our idiom came more and more into prominence, and the world’s fair found the house given over to plays in English. The Schiller prospered during that holiday summer, just as did all of its kind, but with the reaction that followed in 1894 it came to be looked upon as the one first class theater too many in the city.
Drop Curtain and Proscenium Arch
Chicago Tribune, March 15, 1934
Details of the lease of the Garrick theater by a Balaban & Katz subsidiary, the Randolph Amusement company, were made public yesterday. Considerable alterations in the lobby and some redecorating are contemplated. The lease is for five years.
Chicago Sunday Tribune, November 20, 1960
THE REPUBLIC BUILDING
Chicago, Nov. 12—While the fate of the Garrick building is being decided, two more buildings of the Chicago style are lost to the patrimony of the cuty. The Cable building is now almost down, and a sign on the Republic building announces its imminent destruction.
Cable, built in 1899, and Republic, 1905-09, were designed by the great firm of Holabird and Roche, and are excellent examples of the Chicago style, expressing steel frame construction in clear architectural terms. The Republic in particular, noble in conception and elegant in execution, is one of the latest examples of the distinctive Chicago style, erected just before a wave of eclectic taste buried the native genius of the American cities for a generation.
State street is Chicago’s shopping showcase, and could be an architectural showcase as well. No street in the world, not in America, has a row of native buildings of the originality and vigor of Burnham and Root’s Reliance; Holabird and Roche’s Republic and Century, across from each other at Adams (what a pair!); Sullivan’s Carson’s; Jenney’s Fair and Sears buildings. What other city is so rich in treasures of its own creation?
Home Federal Savings and Loan association is said to have bought the Republic in the hope of adapting it to its purposes. When technical studies showed this conversion would be impractical, it would have behooved any responsible architect to save the Republic for general use, and erect a new building on another site. Are they perhaps afraid that their new “milk carton” structure will suffer, by comparison with the works of the classical architects of Chicago?
Assuming, however, that the architects are designing for Home Federal a truly significant and original headquarters, let it take its place among such fine buildings as a Republic still standing. A number of the small, blighted structures could be removed to make room for it, and the new tower beside the old would show at once the native roots and the contimnuing vitality of Chicago’s architectural genius.
THOMAS B. STAUFFER
Chicago Heritage committee.
Chicago Tribune, January 17, 1961
The Garrick theater, subject of an unsuccessful court suit to preserve it as an architectural landmark, was ready yesterday for its first death blow, expected within a few days. Metal scaffolding was erected by the Atlas Wrecking company, around the 17 story ornate structure, which was designed by Louis Sullivan. A permit to demolish the 54 W. Randolph st. building was issued a week ago.
Chicago Tribune, January 22, 1961
Some of those who recently lost the fight to preserve the 68 year old Garrick theater building, are making pilgrimages to their beloved landmark, chisel in hand and a glint in each eye.
Frank Venezia, superintendent fr the Atlas Wrecking company said:
- Most people want oner of the 12 heads above the first floor. It’s the little old ladies with their chisels that are hardest to stop. They’ve got a lot of sentimental attachment for the Garrick because some have seen Al Jolson or Lionel Barrymore perform her.
Designed by Sullivan.
The richly ornamented structure at 64 W. Randolph st. had been the object of a six month struggle by the city and other institutions to spare it from the wrecker’s sledge hammer.
The building was designed by Louis Sullivan, considered to be the father of modern architecture, and it had been called “irreplaceable” by scholars and other architects.
At one time, Mayor Daley had help up a wrecking permit for the building. He gave up when no one came forward with enough money to buy it, and owners, Balaban and Katz Theater corporation, pleaded it cost them $500 a day standing idle.
Tho the architectural adherents lost the first battle they are being joined by hundreds of institutions and individuals to preserve as much of the interior and exterior ornamentation as possible.
Hundreds of Requests.
Mayor Daley, the builder’s owners and the wrecking company are being bombarded with hundreds of letters requesting pieces of the 17 story structure.
“It’ll take at least three weeks before we know who gets what,” Venezia said.
Unauthorized persons are not allowed into the building, which is already being stripped on the inside, because of the danger of falling objects.
Venezia said it would take about five months to demolish the building and clear the site for a five story parking garae. He said the wrecking company’s contract with the owners stipulates they must take due care in preserving the ornaments if people want them. “We’ll have to hire special stone masons to cut them out of the building,” he said.
Used in New Building.
William Horwitz, architect for the parking garage, said his plans call for using as much as 20 per cent of the ornaments on the Garrick in the facade of the new building.
- It will be like a giant abstract piece of art five stories high. We feel the weight of the historical significance of this building and its meaning to art students and we are truing to retain the ornamentation Sullivan is so famous for.
Horwitz said he would have the first choice as to what ornaments the new building will incorporate, but that the owners have expressed their desire to cooperate with all the institutions and societies interested in fragments from the structure. He said the owners were also considering a reproduction of the Garrick to be used inside the lobby of the garage.
Request by Architects.
Second choice will be given to the Chicago chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians. John Randall, chapter president, said the owners were also cooperating in cataloging the various art objects in the building.2
Tho all fragments from the building will be given out without charge, it will cost aboy $10,000 for the skilled work necessary to cut them out, Randall said.
The society is planning to use much of the ornaments in a Louis H. Sullivan room the society will open within a month at its headquarters, 30 N. La Salle st., he said.
Almost every Chicago area historical and architectural institution has made bids for ornaments from the Garrick and many more requests have come from outstate.
Praise for Sullivan
O.V. Shaffer, director of the Wright Art center, Beloit (Wis.) college, in a letter to Mayor Daley wrote:
Louis Sullivan has been a major influence in architecture thruout the world and Chicago was for him a place to build. We are responsible for passing on to students and future generations the seeds of his genius. The building is to be torn down, but we still have the opportunity to illustrate his great work by details.
In another letter, Buford L. Pickens, professor of architecture at Washington university, St. Louis, Mo., wrote:
- If it must come down we would like a memento so that future students of architecture and others can be reminded of its distinguished qualities.
S.I.U. Makes Bid.
Burnett H. Shryock, dean of the fine arts school at Southern Illinois university, Carbondale, said:
- The university galleries department of design, and the department of art will all be be interested in preserving some of the Garrick samples.
The Garrick has been called Sullivan’s ‘soaring tower.” He was one of the forerunners of the skyscraper builders, who promoted metal frames and a pleasing architectural form that would find sympathy with the public.
His second contribution was made in ornamentatio. The Carson Pirie Scott & Co. building is another example of his rich design
1 The Pueblo Grand Opera House (1890-1922), was designed by Louis Sullivan.
2 Architect John D. Randall is the son of architect Frank A. Randall, who compiled in 1949 “The History of the Development of Building Construction in Chicago.” In 1999 John published the second edition, which was widely expanded and revised.