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Crosby Opera House
Life Span: 1865 – 1871
Location: North side of Washington between Dearborn and State Streets
Architect: W. W. Boyington
Chicago Tribune, April 20, 1865
To the wealth and public spirit if U. H. Crosby, Esq., Chicago is indebted for her magnificent Opera House, and the splendid stores adjoining. Of one of these last and an enterprise connected therewith we propose briefly to speak. No. 65 Washington street is a large room thirty feet by one hundred and eighty, immediately east of the entrance to the Opera House, which under the supervision of H. M. Kinsley, formerly of the Tremont and Sherman Houses is to be devoted to supplying the material and gastronomical wants of the people, as the auditorium above is to be devoted to supplying the artistical and musical wants. New York has her Delmonico and her Maison Doree, but it has been reserved for Chicago to unite in one the far famed excellencies of the two chief establishments of the great metropolis.
In front, the store is lighted by immense windows of plate glass, extending from the cornice above to the window-ledge below, and filling, with a single plate on each side, the spaces between the door and the partition walls of the structure, and these are probably among the largest specimens of plate at present in the city. In the rear, a softened and subdued light is conveyed though brilliantly stained glass and ground windows, and in the center the same effect is produced from the skylight set in the ceiling overhead.
On entering the door, the first object which strikes the eye is a magnificent marble soda fountain, with pure silver trimmings and attachments, the whole costing not less than $1,500. This is the only fountain in the country from which soda is drawn from porcelain cups. On the opposite side is a marble counter, with show-cases, devoted to the sale of cigars and bouquets.
The Octagon in the center is used, one end for the sale of confectionery and the other for the office of the Cashier of the establishment. Beyond stand the tables upon which are to be placed the viands which may be ordered, richly carved in walnut and marble topped, all extending, in three rows, from the center to the rear of the apartment, and grouped about with walnut chairs and sofas upholstered in blue “terry reps.” The chairs are entirely unique, and designed expressly for the establishment. They are called the Crosby dining chair.
In the geographical center stands an elegant clock, seven feet high, with fiur dials plainly visible from every part of the room. It is of exquisite workmanship and cost not less than $500. Upon the walls are eight splendid mirrors, five feet wide by eleven feet hight, in frames of walnut, elaborately carved and ornamented. In the rear is a very large, well appointed aquarium. The cost of this is $500. The apartment at night is lighted with massive chandeliers of an original design, and by rows of bracket lights upon the partition walls. A room adjoining the center is set aside for a ladies’ sitting and toilet room. The furniture, office, and interior decoration is composed of heavy black walnut, and presents an extremely massive and elegant appearance, in marked and pleasing contrast with the vivid white of the marble floors and appointments.
In the kitchen below, the same attention has been paid to completeness and convenience. Wine cellars, store-rooms, ovens, confectionaries, and pastry rooms, steam boilers, ranges, boilers, and labor saving contrivances, the latter operated by a steam engine, are among the peculiarities of the kitchen. It is the most complete department of the kind in the country.
The china, glass and silver have all been manufactured expressly for this place, and most of it from original designs. Wines and liquors will be supplied to parties, but only at table. There will be no bar in the house. The kitchen will be under the supervision of Mons August, formerly of Delmonmico’s, and Maison Doree, New York. He has been induced to take charge of the cuisine through the influence of Mr. Grau. The help employed will be young ladies at the counter, and colored men for the waiters. The entire cost of the fitting up of the establishment, will considerably exceed $30,000. It is the Delmonico of the West.
The furniture was supplied by W. W. Strong, 263 Randolph street; the gas fixtures by H. M. Wilmarth, 182 Lake street; the china and glass ware by Davis, Collamore & Co., New York; the silver plated ware, and clock by Giles Brother & Co., 142 Lake street; the cooking apparatus by Edward Whitely, Boston; the linen by Ross, Foster & Co., 165 Lake street; the marble by Schureman & Melick, 210 Clark street, and the painting by W. F. Milligan & Co., 169 Randolph street.
To-night after the conclusion of the opera, this elegant saloon and restaurant will be opened to the public, and our readers will be able to see how nearly our description tallies with the truth.
It has been, in a word, the determination of Mr. Cosby to make this restaurant, like the opera House itself, the completest establishment oft he kind in the country. That it is so is due to his literality, enterprise and good taste.
Exterior of Crosby’s Opera House
Harper’s Weekly, June 6, 1868
Chicago Tribune, April 21, 1865
The Opera House is opened. The event long expected, much contemplated, anxiously awaited, some time deferred on account of the national bereavement, came off last evening; the grand Temple of Music erected by Crosby was opened up to the world by Grau; the event was a triumphal success.
We have previously announced that every seat in the house was taken long before the time came for occupying them; it only needs now to say that the miserable weather of last evening did not deter the holders of tickets from honoring the manager with their presence, nor did it in the slightest degree detract from the character of the audience. The skies without were dark, the rain fell heavily and the loud thunder pealed across heaven’s archway, making anything but “comfortable,” out of doors. But inside the hall there was nothing to remind us the war of the elements. The building was dedicated to the Goddess of Harmony, (or a twin sister) and nought interfered to mar the splendors amid which her gentle reign was inaugurated. Cloaks and jewels were numerous, as though the sun had shone out brightly. The only difference was, perhaps, that the call for carriages was greater than it otherwise would have been. Such a gathering of vehicles has certainly never before seen in Chicago. Long lines stretched all along Washington and Dearborn streets, and wound sinuously far into the adjacent thoroughfares. It is fair to presume that private and punlic stables were alike emptied of their equine denizens for the grand occasion.
A description of the building has already been given. Thise who had the good fortune to be present last evening will agree with us that the published descriptions were far too tame expressions of the reality. The tout ensemble is vast, complete, magnificent, with scarcely a single fault in detail to mar the general effect. Prominent among the little offenses are a disproportionate size of the brackets which support the soffit of the proscenium arch, and a rather unpleasant draft in the aisles, the result of a somewhat too vigorous ventilation—it strikes us that thus last might be easily remedied; it is sufficiently unpleasant to those seated within its range to make it worth the effort.
A very striking point in the general look of the auditorium is the tone and harmony of the coloring. All is quiet, subdued; very favorably contrasting with the glaring reds, whites and yellows of most public structures. There is nothing to offend or fatigue the eye. The general work of the furniture is blue, a very mild color; it is just sufficiently relieved to avoid monotony without paining by the undue use of violent pigments. The lighting arrangements aid this materially; the spectator has not to look at and through a blaze of gaslights; these are all far enough removed from the ordinary range of vision. Look upward to the dome, and you see a blaze of light which may recall ideas of the midday sun; but the gaze averted from the ceiling meets nothing but a mild reflection of the rays, shorn of all their basic actinic properties.
The acoustic qualities of the hall are all that could be desired. The greenness of the walls and the dampness of their paint coatings, combined with a very favorable atmosphere last evening, caused a lack of the full mellowness of sound we may expect to find in the future; but in this respect it was far less disagreeable than we anticipated, while in point of distinctness the acme of perfection has been attained. Every sound was equally audible in the farthest part of the galleries as from the orchestra chairs; not a note or articulation was lost to any one. Those who failed to hear Mr. Crosby from the ultimate parts of the house may rest assured that the failure was owing to to his extreme modesty; he was scarcely audible to those sitting immediately in front of the stage.
Auditorium of Crosby Opera House
And then the scenery and stage fittings; well, we can only say they would do honor to any theater in the Old or New World. We cannot imagine an improvement in the paintings, and the working was admirable. We presume there were few in that audience but expected to see trouble in shifting scenes. There was not an iota. Everything worked as smoothly as and with as complete with the absence of Liten or noise as if the scenes had been trained to run in those groups for half a century. A few new features were introduced is stage management, not necessary to be particularize, which might with advantage ne noted by other parties.
We must not omit to speak of the admirable arrangements for the conduct of the members of the audience to their seats. There was no confusion, notwithstanding the rush. The seats were apportioned off into sections, and a sufficiently large and thoroughly drilled corps of ushers were in attendance to indicate locations. They were dressed neatly, and wore white kids; but what is better, they understood and did their duty well. The chief of staff—Mr. John Newman, late of the Museum—is entitles to mention for his efficient supervision of these details.
Crosby’s Opera House looking east along Washington Street.
Chicago Illustrated, March 1866
Author: James W. Sheahan
Artist: Louis Kurz
On this plate is given a view of the front of Crosby’s Opera building, the finest public building in the West, and hardly excelled by any similar structure in the United States. The magnificent Opera House, which is without equal in the United States, forms but a part of this elegant and costly structure. The main building, the front of which is represented in the plate, is on Washington street, between State and Dearborn streets. The view is taken from State street, looking west. The building has a front on Washington street of one hundred and forty feet; is four stories high, with a Mansard roof, and the architecture is Italian. It is built of the now justly celebrated Athena marble, quarried within forty miles of Chicago, which is extensively used in the construction of so many public buildings and private residences in Chicago.
The need of an opera house in Chicago had become more and more apparent, as the population of the city got larger, and its wealth and taste had in like manner increased. Chicago had always been a liberal patron of music, and its local celebrities, as well as foreign artists, found a public always willing to greet them and to make that greeting substantial.
In 1863, Mr. Uranus H. Crosby, of Chicago, a gentleman of means and of great enterprise, conceived the idea of building in this city an edifice of this kind, which, while designed to be of personal profit to its projector, should also be a credit and an ornament to the city, and give stability to the growing interest of the fine arts. Filled with this most honorable ambition, he, in company with W. W. Boyington, Esq., an architect of Chicago, visited the other cities of the country, examining with care all the buildings erected for like purposes, profiting alike by the practical excellencies and the practical defects which they witnessed. The results of this careful and deliberate examination was the plan of the present building, which, without exception, is generally acknowledged the best designed structure of the kind in America. It embraces all the conveniences and excellencies of the various similar establishments, and as few of their deficiencies as possible. The front of the building combines simplicity with massiveness, and the ornamental designs are sufficiently elaborate, and yet do not, as is too often the case, spoil the general effect. In the centre is a projection which is twenty-three feet wide, through which is an arched entrance to the building. Upon the parapet above this entrance are placed four statues, representing respectively Painting, Sculpture, Music, and Commerce. These were designed and execute by L. W. Volk, Esq., a sculpture of Chicago. Higher in this same central projection are two large figures, designed also by Mr. Volk, representing Music and the Drama. These are placed one on each side of an elaborate dormer window.
On the ground floor are four large halls or stores, each thirty feet front by one hundred and eighty feet deep, and sixteen feet high. These are occupied respectively by Root and Cady, J. Bauer and Company, and W. W. Kimball, as music and piano stores, and by H. M. Kinsley’s celebrated and elegant confectinery, ice cream and dining establishment.
The second floor of the main building is occupied by offices-real estate, insurance, millinery, and others. The third floor is similarly occupied. The fourth floor is devoted to the studios of artists, the following persons being now there: George P. A. Healy, J. H. Drury, C. Highwood, J. R. Sloan, Mrs. S. H. St. John, P. F. Reed, J. H. Reed, H. C. Ford, John Antrobus, E. Seibert, and D. F. Bigelow. On this same flooris a very fine Art Gallery, thirty feet wide by sixty feet long, and eighteen feet high. It is admirably arranged for the purposes to which it is devoted. It is filled with the works of the artists of this and other cities, and is one of the most attractive exhibitions of Chicago.
In the rear of the building is the Opera House, from which the whole edifice takes its name. Passing through the main entrance, already described, to the next floor, a spacious corridor is reached, which is richly ornamented with frescoes, mirrors, and statues. From this corridor open to the right two most spacious and richly furnished toilet rooms, for ladies and gentlemen. On the left of the corridor are three large doorways, through which the visitor enters the auditorium of the Opera House. The effect which is produced by the appearance of the hall, upon opera night, when filled by an audience is very fine. There are seats for three thousand persons. It is in all its parts and appointments, the finest theatre in the country, and has been so pronounced by all the artists who have seen it. It must, in fact, be seen to be greatly justly appreciated. No description, no matter how elaborate, will convey that sufficient idea of it that is once obtained by a personal view. It has that rare advantage, that a person in any part of the hall, whether in the topmost seat of the gallery, or on either side, or in the most remote part of the lobby, can see and hear every thing that passes on the stage. The view is wholly unobstructed.
The dimensions of the auditorium are eighty-six by ninety-five feet, and sixty-five feet high. The ceiling is a triumph of art. It is crowned by a central dome, some twenty-eight feet in diameter. This dome is encircled by panels bearing portraits of Beethoven, Mozart, Auber, Weber, Verdi, Wagner, Gounod, Gluck, Bellini, Donnizetti, Meyerbeer, and Rossini, and the other parts of the ceiling are richly frescoed and moulded in gilt. Directly in front of the stage, and over the orchestra, is a painting forty feet long. from the “Aurora” of Guido Reni, the panels on either side of which are filled with allegorical representations of Tragedy and Comedy.
The stage is extensive and convenient, and supplied with every facility. There are six proscenium boxes. The main floor is apportioned to the orchestra, the parquette, and the dress circle, the parquette rising from the orchestra to nearly the height of the circle. The second floor is the balcony circle, the centre of which is divided into fifty-six private boxes; these immediately front the stage. On the next floor is the family circle, which, though elevated, is none the less convenient. It is comfortable and admirably adapted to hearing and seeing what passes on the stage. The gallery fronts are protected, and at the same time handsomely ornamented with open wire-work, painted in white and gold, and cushioned with blue silk.
The arrangements for heating and lighting this building are complete, and have proved most successful. The entire number of burners are lighted by one operation of an electric apparatus. The means of exit from the Opera House are various, and so arranged that in case of an alarm, or of actual danger, the audience may get out of the building without confusion, easily, expeditiously, and safely. In addition, there has been added to the building another wing, fronting on State street, and containing a fine music or concert hall, fifty by ninety feet, with galleries on three sides.
The cost of the entire building and site was nearly, if not quite, seven hundred thousand dollars. This magnificent edifice was built 1864-5, and was ready for occupancy in March, 1865. The inauguration of the Opera House was intended to have taken place on the night of Monday, April 17th, 1865; but the death of President Lincoln, which took place on the Saturday previous, caused it to be postponed until Thursday, the 20th of April, when it was opened by Grau’s Italian Opera troupe, the opera being “Il Trovatore.” Previous to the opera, and as soon as the orchestra had taken their seats, there was a universal call by the densely packed audience for Mr. Crosby. That gentleman appeared, and as soon as the applause which had greeted him had subsided, made a brief and excellent address in acknowledgement of the compliment. He declined making a speech, preferring, as he said, to let the building speak for itself. His personal object, as a business man of Chicago, had been to use every effort in his power to promote the interests, elevate the tastes, and conduce to the happiness of the great city in which he had cast his lot. He introduced to the audience the Honorable George C. Bates, who read a poem written for the occasion by W. H. C. Hostner, Esq., the “Bard of Avon.” The audience assembled on that evening was undoubtedly the most numerous and brilliant ever assembled on a like occasion in this city.
The following are the persons whose names are connected with the erection and construction of this building:
Proprietor . . . U. H. Crosby.
Architect . . W. W. Boyington.
Ass’t Architect and Draughtsman . . John W. Roberts.
Fresco Painting . . . Jevne and Alumini.
Painting and Graining . . . Heath and Milligan.
Scenic Artist . . . William Voegtlin.
Stage Carpenter and Machinist . . . Wallace Hume.
Carpenter and Mason . . . Wallbaum and Bauman.
Cut Stone . . . L. H. Bolderwick.
Heating Apparatus . . . Murray and Winne.
Gas Fixtures . . . H. M. Wilmarth.
Plumbing . . . John Hughes.
Plastering . . . C. Kobolt.
Plate Glass . . . John R. Platt, New York
Harper’s Weekly, February 9, 1867
THE CHICAGO OPERA HOUSE LOTTERY.
We present on this page a sketch of the drawing of the Crosby Opera-House Art Association at Chicago, Illinois, on January 21. The large building was densely packed with an excited and enthusiastic throng, and Washington Street was blocked up with people. Order was only preserved by a strong police force posted on either side the main entrance and along the stairways. The parquet, orchestra chairs, balcony, boxes, and family circle were filled with the crowd, which included many ladies. The stage was occupied by the Committee, and the orchestra by the reporters. At 12 o’clock the Committee appeared on stage with boxes containing the tickets.
The numbered tickets were then deposited in the large wheel, and those upon which the names of the prizes were engraved in the small wheel. When it was completed both wheels were tightly closed and revolved for five minutes for the purpose of thoroughly mixing the tickets.
Before the drawing commenced it was announced that there were between twenty and thirty thousand tickets unsold, which belonged to Mr. Crosby. Mr. Pilsifer, of Boston, was designated to draw from the small wheel, and Mr.T. C. Doss, of Chicago, from the large one. These gentlemen then took off their coats, bared their arms, and went to work as shown in our sketch.
The latest information concerning the chief prizes is that the Opera-House was drawn by A. H. Lee, of Prairie du Rocher, Illinois; one or two valuable paintings were drawn by others; but the more valuable ones of the “Yosemite Valley,” “An American Autumn,” etc., were found to have fallen in the lucky Mr. Crosby. Mr. Lee subsequently sold his ticket for $200,000. The balance-sheet of Mr. Crosby shows that his total profit on the speculation amounts to $650,000.
Drawing prizes in the Crosby Opera House Lottery
Sketched by Theodore R. Davis
Chicago Tribune, July 16, 1871
THE OPERA HOUSE.
The summer season at Crosby’s Opera House is at an end, and the building will now be given up to the carpenters, painters, decorators, and upholsterers, that it may be in order for the fall campaign of opera.
Chicago Tribune, September 29, 1871
It has been two or three years the cherished design of the gentlemen controlling the Opera House to restore the splendor of its faded auditorium, to renew seats worn out by thousands of visitors, and to make it look more resplendent than when it was first thrown open to the public. But season after season slipped by, and it was not until this summer that the management was able to obtain the time necessary to execute the extensive repairs determined upon. But this business of repairing grows on one. The workmen have been busy since the middle of July, and are not yet through, and the sum which it was intended to expend had swollen from $30,000 to $80,000, the bronzes alone costing $5,000. By working day and night, and employing as many men as there is room for, however, the Opera House will be opened on the 9th proximo, on which occasion Theodore Thomas will occupy the house.1
Yesterday afternoon Mr. Garrison, the well-known Treasurer and Manager, invited the representatives of the press to visit the scene of his labors, in order that they might see what had been done, and what was doing, and although the place was obstructed with scaffolding and filled with workmen, yet it was not difficult to form an idea of what the appearance of things will be when the work is completed.
Upon leaving the street and ascending the steps to the lower floor of the Opera House, the first things noticeable are the iron pillars that rqn from floor to ceiling. These have been colored brown, and ornamented with gold lines. The ceiling of the entrance is elegantly frescoed with an Egyptian pattern, surrounded with stucco work in white and gold, producing a beautiful effect. The grand stairway has been altered by the erection of a balustrade upon the left hand side. The large newel posts at the bottom are each surmounted with an elegant bronze figure of an Egyptian female water-carrier. There is but one companion pair of these bronzes in America. The newel posts at the upper extremity of the stairway are ornamented with bronze figures of Egyptian female oil-carriers. From the oil and water pots of these figures extend the gas jets. Heading the stairway, the enlarged proportions of the ticket office attract attention. Heavy walnut wainscoting, of an elegant pattern, extends around the hall. A magnificent bronze chandelier depends from the ceiling. A large panel in the ceiling is frescoed in oil with brilliant colors of carmine and gold and fancy design. The remainder of the ceiling is of a remarkably handsome pattern, in aq pearl color. The floor, from the stairway to the entrance of the hall leading to the main auditorium, is laid in marble slabs.
The hallway from the box-office to the auditorium is frescoed in ten panels, each one containing a German fancy sketch, surrounded with green and gold lines. The two outside ones will hold bronze figures, the one of Madame de Pompadour, and the other of Madame de Maintenon. A large mirror will occupy the central niche, with a female figure in bronze holding an elegant clock, standing in front. The three statues will be elevated upon handsome pedestals. A large skylight has been erected in the hall, and from this will be suspended a superb chandelier, which is said to be the largest parlor chandelier in the West. Its cost was $600. The paneling of the skylight, which is beautifully painted, is finished with gilt moulding.
The walls of the auditorium, which is far more brilliant and dazzling than ever before, are colored with modest ornamentation. The floor is covered with heavy Brussels carpeting, with black background and gold medallion figure. The seats of the dress-circle are of black walnut, and newly upholstered with scarlet plush, a line of gold moulding running just above and setting it off nicely. Every seat is stuffed with curled hair, and is soft and comfortable. Twenty-one and one-half inches are allowed to each seat, which is 2¼ inches more than regular width. The plush was made in Ems, France, for Mr. Crosby, and two months ago was in the raw material. It cost $140 gold, per piece, each piece containing but 37 yards.
The walls on the main floor and galleries are wainscoted to the height of four feet, with panels of black walnut surrounded by strips of birdseye maple.
The parquette is finished with opera chairs of unique design and elegant finish. The upholstery is crimson plush, and the frames are heavily overlaid with gold leaf. The cost of these chairs was $15 each, and 350 are used. The floor of the parquette, which is shaped like a lyre, is of walnut and maple, the stripes of the latter being twice the width of the former. To the great advantage of those who may be seated near the footlights, the floor has been raised, so that, at whatever point a person is situated, he has an excellent view of the stage. The balustrade around the parquette will be a pure white ground, with dark-colored panel ornamented gold stucco of pleasing design.
The balcony circle is reached as heretofore by stairways from the main floor. The newel posts at the bottom and top of the balustrades support bronze figures of Egyptian pattern, from whose hands a spray of three lights is sent out. The upper newel posts will also be surmounted with bronzes of fine design. Half way up the stairs a niche had been set in the wall, on both sides of the house, and verdi figures of Egyptian oil-carriers will be placed in them. The hall of the balcony circle will be covered with a carpet similar in pattern to that the background is crimson instead of black. The sofas in this circle are also similar to those of the circle below. The balcony boxes have been padded with crimson rep, with plush trimming, a gold moulding running between. They are carpeted with pearl-colored Brussels, with gold tendril running through it. Large reception chairs upholstered in pearl color are to be placed in the boxes. The front partition lines will be covered with gold gimp. Six chandeliers depend from the beautifully frescoes ceiling, directly over the boxes.
In all respects the upper circle will be as finely furnished as the lower, save that the seats are upholstered with crimson rep instead of plush.
The proscenium boxes are painted white, heavily inlaid with gold leaf, and while giving evidence of great elaboration, are not gaudy in effect. Instead of being papered, as before, the walls are padded with curled hair, covered with heavy crimson rep. In each corner is a piece of shell-work in rep, and the padding is surrounded with crimson plush, something darker than the rep, and a heavy gold gilt moulding. The floors are to be covered with heavy carpets of splendid pattern, and the furniture will consist of a sofa and chairs in each box, the latter being of carved work.
The lower left hand box is retained by Mr. Crosby, and is furnished differently from the others. The sofa and chairs will be upholstered in gold silk brocade that cost $20 in gold per yard. In a niche in this box will be placed a solid silver tankard that cost $500. The entrance doors to the boxes are of drab color, with heavy gold mouldings around the panels, and look remarkably rich.
The light will come mainly from the dome, and will furnished by innumerable gas jets, reflected by corrugated silver reflectors. The latter cost $600. The dome is magnificently frescoed in fancy patterns and brilliant colors, and when lighted will present a magnificent appearance.
The Crosby Opera House between Dearborn & State Streets shows high curbed walks and good street surface. One of Chicago’s first gas lights, installed in 1850, is shown in foreground.
No less attention has been paid to the main ceiling than to the other portions of the audience chamber. Surrounding the dome are several panels. In alternate panels are portraits of Shakespeare, Byron, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Meyerbeer, and Beethoven. Beautiful fancy pieces ornament the remaining panels. These occupy but one-half the ceiling. Elegant fresco work covers the remaining portion, and, as the colors are bright and tastefully blended, the effect is very fine. Directly over the stage is a representation of Mount Parnassus, upon the summit of which are seated Apollo, Melpomene, and Thalia. At the foot of Apollo is the Castilian fountain, overshadowed by a large fig tree. The cornices are marbled, and look remarkable well. The proscenium walls are ornamented with figures, the designs being from the Grand Opera House, Paris.
The wooden box that surrounded the orchestra has been removed, and in its place is a low balustrade of black walnut with white posts, of heavy pattern, that gives a substantial and handsome appearance. It has also been enlarged so as to seat eighty-three persons, eighteen more than it formerly held.
The changes in the stage are slight, its dimensions being unchanged. A new floor has been laid, new scenery painted, a new curtain procured, of scarlet rep, finished at the bottom with a plush flounce four feet deep.
So rich and splendid is the new house, differing from the old one in all except architectural lines, that few who visit it on Monday week will be able to recall it as it once was, but they will, doubtless, be so delighted with all they see that they will only enjoy it as it is, and not give a thought to its past appearance.
Chicago Tribune, October 5, 1871
The sale of tickets for Theodore Thomas’ season of concerts, which begin at Crosby’s Opera House on Monday evening next, began on yesterday, and from the immense rush at the box office, the indications point to a season of unparalleled success. The public curiosity to inspect the wondrous changes which have been made in the auditorium, together with the furore which the largely-augmented orchestra may be expected to create, will, without doubt, conspire to render the re-opening one of the most notable events in the history of music in Chicago. A gorgeous treat of sight and sound in store.
Theodore Thomas, Volume I-Life Work by George P. Upton, 1903
The Crosby Opera House had been brilliantly decorated and renovated throughout during the summer of 1871 and was to to have been dedicated it anew by Mr. Thomas and his orchestra on Monday evening, October 9. It was lit up for the first time on Sunday evening, for the pleasure of friends of the managers, and two or three hours later was in ashes. Mr. Thomas and his orchestra reached the Twenty-second Street station of the Lake Shore Railroad while the fire was at its height and left the burning city at once, en route for St. Louis.
Chicago Tribune, undated.
Albert Crosby said upon the ruins of the new Crosby Opera House:
I would not have minded the loss of the building, if only Chicago had only seen it once.
Crosby Opera House
North side of Washington between Dearborn and State Streets
ROOT & CADY MUSIC PUBLISHING COMPANY.
William W. Kimball was the Opera House’s first tenant and Mr. Kimball was good friends with composer Dr. George Frederick Root. The composer’s younger brother, Ebanear Root, a singer, along with music conductor, Chauncey Cady, formed the music publishing business in 1858.
The company became the largest music publishing house and instrument dealer in the West.
An 1867 ad for the Root & Cady Music Publishing Company which was located inside the Crosby Opera House.
After the Great Fire destroyed the Opera House, Mr. Kimball opened his piano store on the southeast corner of State and Adams. His first year’s rent was $12,000, but he received over a million dollars in sales.
Mr. Root and Mr. Cady went separate ways. Mr. Root gave up selling musical instruments, continued to sustain a business long enough. Mr. Cady went bankrupt and left Chicago.
Crosby Opera Waltz for piano music score
Composed by Frederic Woodman Root in 1865
Dedicated to U.H. Crosby, Esq.
Chicago Block 37, on which Crosby’s Opera House was located, continued to be a star-crossed site. In 1989 the city demolished the deteriorated properties then on the block, and, only after almost twenty years of discussions, disputes, and deals that fell through, it has only recently been redeveloped. During a portion the period when Block 37’s fate was in limbo, however, it hosted a summer outdoor art studio for Chicago public school students—named gallery37—and a skating rink during the winter.
LEFT: Block 37, 1830
RIGHT: Block 37, 1989