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Life Span: 1873-1937
Location: Northeast corner of Clark and Kinzie Streets
Architect: W. W. Boyington
Andreas’ History of Chicago, Volume 3
The first large hall opened after the fire, and in fact the most capacious music hall that Chicago has ever had, was McCormick Hall, on the corner of North Clark and Kinzie streets.
The Land Owner, October, 1872
Chicago Tribune, November 14, 1873
The M’CORMICK HALL CONCERT
The new and beautiful hall erected by Mr. McCormick, on the corner of Kinzie and North Clark streets was dedicated Thursday, November 13, 1873, by a grand concert. It is not only the best hall Chicago has ever had, but is one of the finest in the United States. It should be a matter of pride to every citizen that at last Chicago ha- an auditorium where music can he heard to its best advantage. The dimensions of the hall are 100 x I2O feet, and it can accommodate two thousand live hundred persons. The gallery is low and very spacious, and has a superb sweep. The frescoing is in exquisite taste, and in no particular offensive to the eye. Instead of caricatures of the old composers which are in almost every music hall in the country there are four medallion heads, are these are of the four prima donnas, Lucca. Kellogg, Patti and Nilsson. The central chandelier is very brilliant, but so far above the heads of the audience that the light is not painful to the eye, but, on the other hand, very pleasant, by its peculiar softness. The ventilation is all that could be desired.
Our Great Public Halls.—The New McCormick Hall, Erected by the Site of the Old Revere House, North Clark Street
Illustration from The Land Owner, October, 1873.
As the concert was a complimentary one. it does not call for criticism, but still it may be added that Mr. McCormick sought only to dedicate his hall in an informal way, he actually gave one of the best concerts we have ever had in the city. Wieniawski never played better, and the Kiinkel brothers created a perfect tempest of enthusiasm with their marvelous playing. The Apollo Club sang some of its lighter numbers in capital style, and a fragmentary piece of “Trovatore” was given by some amateurs. The audience was a very large and a very delighted one. anil the new hall received a very successful christening.1
Chicago Tribune, July 2, 1885
THE MUSEUM—”THE MIKADO.”
The complication of conflicting interests involved in the alleged performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Mikado” at the North Side Museum1 is entirely beyond the common course of such things. For one cause or another round half dozen of parties have reason to feel aggrieved. Not to mention Mr. Sydney Rosenfeld, who has bought the American right of the authors; Manager Duff, who hasn’t bought it but would have done so if the price had not been too high; the intelligent public, which may happen to get its first start into the new work under misleading guidance; and the authors, who have the right to claim that the supposed performance is not really their work at all. Of all these the general public has the best time of it. It can go and sit it out, and laugh at the funny places without being haunted by the recollection of having it heard it better done by some other company. Nobody who sears it and nobody who plays in it has ever seen a performance of the work elsewhere or heard a single line of the music. It is a free field and no favor. As for Mr. D’Oyly Carte and Mr. Duff, they may settle their differences at their leisure and the lawyers will pick the bones. It does not concern the public. The author’s rights, also, may be disposed of just as easily. There is no “evidence,” as the Lord Chancellor remarked, that the composition performed on the North Side is either in essence if in outward seeming the work of the famous cockney firm. A pianoforte part and a copy of the libretto were bought in open market. Music was scored, stage business devised de novo at two days’ notice, the work given out, learned, staged, performed—and here we are.
In so far as the pianoforte score of Pond & Co. maybe accepted as evidence the tunes of the North Side work are those of Sullivan. The overture was some other one, whether by him or by another deponent sayeth not. It is a point which does not materially signify, for report has it thqat Sullivan himself, being hard pressed for time, handed out a few tunes to be worked in and gave a leisurely friend £10 to get up a rattling good overture for him. The accompaniments of the presentation, also, were new. The “full orchestra” consists of four strings, a cornet, and a piano. It is possible that the cornet may have spelled himself himself occasionally with a clarinet—there were sounds now and then suggesting such a substitution. Of all authors Gilbert and Sullivan are the least adapted for successful presentation in this imperfect form. Sullivan’s music is never more than the least little way above the line of mediocrity. It is intensely respectable and essentially commonplace. Its only air of novelty depending upon its successful imitation of old English cadences and the madrigals of 200 years ago. “The Mikado” is peculiar in another respect. So far the published score affords evidence, the work contains no airs or duets of consequence for the leading young woman, Miss Yum-Yum, and her lover. The finales are not at all elaborate. There are several songs like those of the Admiral and Lord Chancellor, adapted for singers who can act, but cannot sing. Not accepting the museum verdict that all of the airs can dispense with voices, it may be said at least that those of the Mikado and the Lord Ko-Ko are of this kind. It is quite likely that a better singer in the part of the Miss Yum-Yum would be able to make a positive effect of the song, “The sun whose blaze.” and the duet with Nanki-Poo. In the second act, also, there are two part songs, one a madrigal. the other a glee, such as few other men could have written. They are thoroughly English, and, although they go off into nonsense at the end, as Englishmen like to have their sentiment, they are, nevertheless, susceptible of producing a fine effect. It will not be surprising if upon fuller acquaintance they turn out to be as successful as “The old, old love” in “Patience.”
The libretto is thoroughly Gilbertian, clever, nonsensical, full of absurd travesty of high-flown sentiment. The first part of the work is rather slow; in fact the entire first act is so; but the second act more than makes amends. The ridiculous tangle at the end is highly amusing. s usual with Gilbert, the plain girl who sings alto and has not yet succeeded in getting married comes in for a heavy dose. The Lady Katisha, the “daughter-in-law-elect” of the Mikado, represents this principle in the present opera, and in fact has the chief musical part of the work. The Japanese element of the play was produced upon the present occasion under considerable disadvantages. As the printed copies do not contain stage directions, and as the management is perhaps a little rusty in its Japanese lore, the stiffness of the performance was one of its most striking features. It is with no intentional disrespect to then ordinary bacconist’s sign that the grace and general ease of Mr. Richard Burton as Nanki-Pooh are compared to it. The importance of this resemblance grows out of the fact that Nanki-Pooh is the leading man of the cast—the baritone lover. The best feature of the performance is Mr. J. W. Herbert’s Ko-Ko, Lord High Executioner. This is the Lord Chancellor2 part of the piece. Its lines and songs are all clever. The remainder of the cast may be left without especial mention. One improvement at least might be made without any great tax upon the resources of the house. Nanki-Pooh and Yun-Yum might kiss in their duet where the lines say “and thus, and thus.” Of the opera itself one thing at least can be said, as of all others of the same author—they have made it an amusing piece without drawing upon unpleasant social relations for a motive.
Chicago Tribune, June 29, 1886, Advertisement, July 4, 1886
“Erminie” at the Casino.
The Casino bids fair to be a most attractive loafing-place during the summer. The café, promenades, and smoking-rooms are cool and well-ordered, and above-stairs “Erminie” is sung well enough to please the uncritical. “Erminie” is a comic three-act opera, the music written by Profs. Hoffman and Wheeler, and the book by Mr. Fred Dixon. The story is a recast of the adventures of that genial scoundrel Robert Macaire, and is too well known to need telling. The version given last night was riddled with slang phrases and cheap “gags,” but was amusing enough. The interest is well sustained and the denouement as felicitous as one could desire. The music is very reminiscent, but withal bright and taking. The chiefest fault is prolixity. One pretty little idea is made to do service until it dies of sheer weariness. There are a number of bits, however, that will probably make a deep impression on the whistling public. The march song in the first act with its music-ball jingle proved very infectious and was given a generous encore. Erminie’s ballad in the same act is also a pleasant bit of sugary writing. The opera is conventional enough to be thoroughly popular and is doubtless assured of a long run. The company, which has taken to itself the rather pretentious name of “The American Opera Company,” is still in the rough, but contains some very good material.
Marquis Handbook of Chicago, 1886
The Chicago Museum and Theater occupies McCormick Hall and other portions of the building on the corner of North Clark and Kinzie Streets. The hall is on the third floor. It is encircled by a gallery and seats about 2,500. The stage is 36×42 feet. General theatrical plays, light operas and variety performances are given. The museum of curiosities is on the second floor.
A. N. Marquis & Co.’s Handy Business Directory of Chicago, 1886-7
Chicago Tribune, October 21, 1889
There are nearly a score of theaters in Chicago, and it would hardly be imagined that there would be room for another; yet a house which will be first-class in point of costliness and accommodations will be opened to the public Oct. 28. It is the old Clark street Casino, which during the the last five years had so many vicissitudes. But it is practically new now, for a complete and glittering theater has been built in the interior of the big structure. It will be called H. R. Jacobs’ Clark Street Theater, although the natural entrance would seem to be on Kinzie street. The spectators will sit looking north, and the stage door gives into the alley between Kinzie and Michigan streets. A long corridor leads into the auditorium from Clark street.
Everyone remembers old McCormick Hall. Many were the mass-meetings, balls, and assemblies of every kind held within its spacious walls. When the museum craze came up, it was turned into a dime museum, and from that day to this misfortunes came thick upon it. The managers who have tried to run it on different plans as museum, theater, concert-hall, and even beer-garden, could be reckoned by the dozen. They all failed. There were two reasons. It is just north of the Clark street bridge, and pleasure seekers from other sections of the city did not think it necessary to cross the bridge bfor amusement. Then, again, the hall proper was on the third floor, and people are nervous about perching at such a height from the street. The latter objection has now been met, for the new auditorium takes up the whole eastern half of the building from the ground to the roof.
Although the scaffolding was still up when the theater was visited the other day, and hammer and saw were busy, an impression of the contour and color could be obtained. The theater is as large as Hooley’s; indeed, it may be larger; and will accommodate 1,900 persons. It has two balconies, well projected toward the stage, thus giving the effect of compactness and coziness. The boxes sweep down from the first balcony to the proscenium in curving rows of three. The scheme of decorations is white and gold, colors which, with the aid of electricity, will have a Parisian brightness. The proscenium arch is ingeniously sculptured, and makes a rich crown for the pretty curtain. The stage arrangements are exceptionally good, the old style of grooves having been rejected and drops worked instead from a lofty fly-gallery.
It is promised that the attractions of the new theater will be first-class, like its material phases. This, however, will be a difficult promise to redeem, because there are not enough first-class attractions in the market at present to supply the regular down-town houses. Its opening attraction Oct. 28 will be certainly first-class, however, for it is “Said Pasha,” the comic opera which presently made a hit at McVicker’s.
The executive staff will be as follows: Joseph U. Chenet, acting manager; William H. Cobb, treasurer; Edward V. Giroux, advertising agent; Charles Nitchke, musical director; and James Barrett, stage carpenter.
The sale of seats for the opening night will begin Thursday morning at the box office.
Chicago Tribune, October 27, 1889
Mr. H. R. Jacobs had a housewarming last night, when his new Clark Street Theater was opened to visitors. It is situated at the northeast corner of Clark and Kinzie streets, where the old Casino stood. But of the old Casino not a trace remains.
“To get rid of the bad odors that clung about the Casino,” says Jacobs, “we had to perform a miracle.”
The effect of the lower floor as you stand with your back to the orchestra is that of a marine view. The seats are all in a dark-blue plush. They rise tier above tier, their prices running from $1.50 in the front to 50 cents in the back. The balcony seats, similarly decorated, cost 50, 35 and 25 cents. In the immense gallery, of burnished wood, the seats are 15 cents apiece.
These prices are given because they reveal the entire scheme of the theater.
“What will the house contain?”
“Not far from $1,000. How many theatrical companies, I should like to know, can afford to squeeze at that?”
“Which have you secured?”
“We open with ‘Said Pasha.” It comes almost directly from McVicker’s. Then we have ‘Harbor Lights,’ just as they gave it at the Columbia. After that Hoyt’s farces, exactly as they were presented at Hooley’s and the Grand.”
“How many theaters have you now?”
“This is the twenty-first.”
Chicago Tribune, December 3, 1895
The Imperial Music Hall is the promising title which the old Clark Street Theater on the North Side has been reopened. A good vaudeville performance opens the new career of this house, with Fanny Vedder, Lillian Monterey,and other specialists among the artists.
Inter Ocean, February 25, 1901
May Hosmer, a stock actress familiar from a long service here in popular theaters, last evening blossomed forth as a curtain critic of the theatrical syndicate. This was in the new Victoria theater, in North Clark street, which was opened on this occasion, Miss Hosmer appearing in the leading feminine part in the labor drama, “The Lost Paradise.” Her grievance was not quite clear, but her auditors were plainly in sympathy with her. After the third act, having received a gaudy assortment of bouquets and enough floral devices to serve at either a wedding ceremony or a funeral, she came before the curtain, and in response to demands for a speech referred to “managers who had kept her out of Chicago for over a year.” She said she was pleased to note, however, that she had not been forgotten, and that her admirers had followed her “across the bridge.”
What secret means had been employed to keep Miss Hosmer from the view of the Chicago public went unexplained, and after her somewhat indefinite assertion she retired to the cheers of the gathering. If any “syndicate” has any designs of crushing Miss Hosmer, it may be said that she is fairly likely to hold her own.
The new Victoria—formerly Jacobs’ theater—had a cleanly and attractive appearance. White, dark red, and dark green harmonized nicely in the decorative scheme, while the auditorium had the appearance of comfort, and the aisles were wide. The evening audience simply jammed the place. The leading players in “The Lost Paradise,” in addition to Miss Hosmer, were Lillian Mortimer, Edwin Boring, Jules Kusel, and Albert Andruss. With the exception of Mr. Andruss, they were well known, and consequently greeted with enthusiasm. Mr. Andruss is the leading man and was accepted into popular favor. Specialties were added to the theatrical performance, the leading contributions being made by Blanche Leclair Sloan.
Chicago Tribune, September 6, 1905
Reopening of the New American.
The New American theater on North Clark street, near Kinzie, reopened last Monday night for the first time since the Iroquois disaster. The interior has been redecorated and is now attractive in its combination of red, white, and gold. Instead if the stock company performances which were given in the past, vaudeville now is offered.
And an arrangement which is in vogue in other cities of the country, but which is new to Chicago, has been adopted as regards the entertainment. Four performances are given every day, the first beginning at 2, the second at 3:30, the third at 8, and the fourth at 9:30 o’clock. On Monday and again yesterday the plan proved successful, audiences of good size being present at all of the performances.
Chicago Tribune, April 17, 1907
In close proximity to the nickel theaters which infest the downtown district wiuth vicious suggestiveness, there stand a number of more pretentious places of entertainment which outrival their less ostentatious neighbors in the vulgar spectacles they produce. These theaters in recent months have grown bold and unrestrained.
Among the most popular of these resorts is Sid J. Euson’s theater, North Clark and Kinzie streets, where this week a program is being presented which apparently relies on its flagrant indecency for its popularity. Chief among the attractions is what purports to be a reproduction of Stanford White’s blackbird pie dinner, combined with the seven veiled dance of “Salome” of operatic fame.
The body of the house was filled with men and women largely of the class to be found in the near north side region, in the middle of which the theater stands.
In the gallery, however, a row of white, eager faces was seen peering forward at the scantily attired women on the stage.
These were not the faces of men, or even of grown women. They belonged to immature boys and girls, ranging in age from 14 to 18. One of the subscribers of The Tribune who wrote complaining of this theater asked why it was necessary to have in this city such places that have a main result in debasing the young.
Dance of “Mlle. Salomo.”
The crowning moment of the show yesterday afternoon came toward the end, when the “famous Mlle. Salomo” appeared. In a circle of light in the center of the stage four tawdry looking individuals grouped themselves around a table on which was supposed to be the remains of a banquet, with an enormous pie as the pièce de rèsistance. With a little barroom chaff and a few strains of “grand opera” music from the orchestra the pie split in halves and Salomo appeared gorgeous in tinsel and paint.
With the utmost nonchalance she proceeded to disrobe. The climax of the act left the woman in practically nude condition, the dance of Salomo having been concluded.
Scarcely a pretense was made by any of the actors in the scene to keep up the illusion that they were engaged in the presentation of a sketch. Of singing or attempt at it there was none, and the dancing of mademoiselle consisted in the shuffling of her feet occasionally together with whatever immodest motions her mind might suggest.
The scene was so baldly and openly an attempt to play on the lower tastes of the audience that when the curtain fell no one in the house had the temerity to applaud, and Salomo disappeared amid silence, which finally was broken by a man’s hoarse guffaw, followed by a hysterical giggle from one of the women in the gallery.
The men “comedians” in the show who appeared fell back on the familiar tactics of ridiculing sacred things in order to secure a handclap. Alleged jests on religious subjects with an immoral insinuation were the main stock of these “actors.” Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden proved a never failing source of merriment.
“Game of Ro-Ko” Closes Program.
What was announced by the stage manager to be one of the greatest attractions ever offered brought the deifying performance to a close. This was a game of “Ro-Ko” played between two teams of girls. Apparently the game had only one object—to allow the women to rush about the stage and display as much of their underclothing as possible.
While Euson’s theater ranks first in point of popularity among places of its type, it is closely followed by the Folly and the Trocadero, which are situated on State street immediately south of the loop. Next week Salomo is advertised to appear at the Trocadero, while in the meantime the “beautiful Zallah” is appearing in a series of “Egyptian dances.” A painful monotony marks the performances at each of these theaters; indecency and vulgarity appear to be the main requisites in the performers, and whoever is lucky enough to excel in these qualities is always sure to be in demand.
Chicago Tribune, April 18, 1907
Sid J. Euson yesterday told The Tribune he had barred all objectionable features from the show at his theater this week. He said it was a traveling company, and that he was not aware of the character of the show.
“I am glad The Tribune took up the matter,” he said. “I have expurgated the program and will see that the performance hereafter is of wholesome nature. I am not antagonistic to The Tribune’s crusade, and it should have the credit for its good work. So soon as I read the article in The Tribune yesterday I investigated and ordered all objectionable features of the show thrown out.
“I want my theater clean, and I hope The Tribune will keep up the good work all along the line.”
Chicago Tribune, September 4, 1910
Record was made of the lease of what is known as the Star theater at the northeast corner of North Clark and Kinzie streets, which was occupied until a few months ago by Sid J. Euson. The lease id for a term of five years from Sept. 1 and is from Maynard A. Cheney of Brookline, Mass., to Jules Hurtig and Harry J. Seamon of New York City. The rent is to be $9,000 a year for the first three years and $10,000 a year for following two years. The lease may be extended for a term of five years at an annual rent of $12,000. The lease provides that the landlord is to make changes and alterations as will convert the theater into a class five theater.
Chicago Tribune, July 3, 1920
BY AL CHASE
One of Chicago’s oldest and at one time one of its best known theatrical properties, now called the Casino theater, at the northeast corner of North Clark and West Kinzie streets, figured yesterday in a $450,000 deal. It promises to be the first step in a hotel or office building project involving several millions.
William S. Furry, president of the Ohio Injector company, and chief stockholder in several other large concerns, purchased the leasehold and building fronting 100 feet on Clark and 120 feet on Kinzie, from Milton Daily and Philip W. Stanhope, for a reported $450,000. He was represented by Paul C. Loeber. The ground lease is dated 1891 and runs for 99 years at $9,000 a year without revaluation. The land is valued by the board of review at $89,600.
Opened with Light Opera.
The five story building contains the Casino theater, a 100 room hotel, five stores, and a cabaret in the basement. The playhouse was opened about 1890 as the H. R. Jacobs Clark Street theater with the Said Pasha Opera company. Years later Sid J. Euson operated it as a burlesque house, attaining almost as much notoriety as Sam T. Jack, whose theater he once managed.
Mr. Furry is considering an offer by the Chicago film exchanges to erect a building for them. He also is considering putting up a 260 foot hotel or office building.
Chicago Tribune, February 7, 1937
The fact that “The Mikado” will be the opening bill of this Gilbert and Sullivan repertory recalls the legend that its first American production was in Chicago. This was a “scratch” affair for copyright purposes. The performance was given in the Clark Street Museum, a small entertainment hall north of the river, in the summer of 1885. The northeast corner of Clark and Kinzie streets was the location; the theater’s name was changed frequently. It was later called the Kinzie, the Star. the Victoria, the American, and Sid Eudson’s burlesque house. The structure has been demolished and the site is now used as a parking area.
Chicago Tribune, November 21, 1948
The Clark St. Theatre
So many readers have sent in answers to the question as to the name of the theater on N. Clark st., near the river that we cannot print the names of all. Most of these letters give the name as “H. R. Jacobs’ Clark Street Theater.”
The best documented account of the theater comes from Eugene W. Gardner, route 1, Edwardsburg, Mich. Mr. Gardiner quotes from John J. Flinn’s “Guide to Chicago” (1891) which says :
H. R. Jacobs’ Clark Street Theatre.—Located on the east side of North Clark St., near the bridge. Formerly McCormick’s hall, later the Casino. Has been remodeled and refitted in a first-class manner. H. R. Jacobs, lessee; Joseph A. Chenet, manager. A popular light comedy and vaudeville theatre.
He quotes L. Schick’s “Chicago and Environs,” published the same year, with the same information.
Later, say other correspondents, it was called the Star theater. Finally it was known as Sid Euson’s Burlesque house. Others remember it as the American theater. Several readers mention having seen melodramas there…”The Silver King” was one of these. Thanks to all who wrote us.
Robinson Fire Map
1 In spite of this rosy view of its merits there were several serious objections to McCormick Hall, chief of them being its location upon the North Side, and its consequent inconvenience of access for residents of the other two divisions of the city; and its dan^vr in case of fire. It was in the third story of the building, the original exits being wholly inadequate to the safe delivery of a large crowd, even if they had not the further fatal defect of uniting at the first story into a single exit. This objection was to some extent removed by subsequent alterations, but the location could not be modified. Hence, no sooner was Central Music Hall opened, on December 4, 1879, than first-class musical entertainments resorted unanimously to the new location.—Andreas’ History of Chicago, Volume 3
2 This performance may have been the first performance of “The Mikado” in the United States, but was not authorized by the authors. Full details can be explained in The Mikado in Chicago.
2 The Lord Chancellor is a character in Gilbert And Sullivan’s 1882 opera, “Iolanthe.”